Fireball-powered Northern Taurid meteor shower peaks tonight. How to watch

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A Taurid fireball captured in 2015.

P. Spurny / Czech Academy of Sciences

One of the most explosive meteor shower of the year is active and will peak on Wednesday – good news if you want to see fire in the sky.

The showers from the Southern Taurids and Northern Taurids are now active and tend to produce a lot of sizzle in the form of fireballs that illuminate the sky. The southern Taurid branch has already peaked, but may continue to contribute to the total fireballs count. According to the American Meteor Society of AMS, the Northern Taurids are expected to reach peak activity Wednesday evening and the following morning.

The Taurids are produced when Earth floats through a cloud of debris left behind by Comet 2P / Encke around this time each year. Small chunks of dust can be thought of as “shooting stars” in our upper atmosphere, while larger pieces of space rock can produce more dramatic fireballs.

The Taurids are not as well known as other meteor showers like the Perseids or even the Leonids, which are also active in November. They don’t produce as many meteors per hour as those more familiar showers, but the Taurids are known for generally adding a healthy dose of fireballs to the night sky in late October and early November.

The Taurids are particularly active about every seven years, but we won’t see that again until 2022. Still, you could see a handful of shooting stars and maybe even a fireball every hour if you hit the road around midnight in ideal conditions.

It is possible to see them earlier in the evening, albeit a little less likely. However, closer to dusk, you can see a rare “earth grazer” on the horizon.

When hunting Taurid, start to get as far away from light pollution as possible and find a spot with a wide, unobstructed view of the sky. Bundle up if needed and then just lie back, let your eyes adjust, relax and watch.

Taurids appear to originate from the neighborhood of the constellation Taurus the Bull, which is also located next to the famous star cluster, the Pleiades. However, there is no need to focus on this part of the sky, as the Taurids can be visible in other parts of the night sky as well, but they will generally move away from Taurus.

Enjoy a little fire in the sky and pass on all the epic fireball photos you happen to see me, @EricCMack, on Twitter.

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