Fireball Stargazers in the United Arab Emirates are in for a celestial treat on two significant dates this month, November 6 and 13, as they’ll have the rare opportunity to witness the dazzling display of the cosmos not just once but twice.
Double Meteor Show
On these specific dates, people can revel in two nights under the starry sky, thanks to the Taurids meteor shower, also known as the “Halloween fireball,” which will be showcasing its peak meteor rate. This meteor shower, as experts elucidate, consists of two streams, the North Taurids and South Taurids, emanating from distinct sections of the comet’s tail.
Fireballs in the Sky
According to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke, who was quoted by space.com, “The Taurids are rich in fireballs so if you see a Taurid, it can be very brilliant and it’ll knock your eyes out, but their rates absolutely suck. It’s simply the fact that when a Taurid appears, it’s usually big and bright.”
Meteor Velocity and Origin
In terms of altitude, NASA explains that Orionids usually burn up at approximately 58 miles (93 km) above Earth, while Taurids tend to reach around 42 miles (66 km). Their pace is relatively leisurely, moving through the sky at a rate of about 17 miles (27 kilometers) per second or 65,000 miles (104,000 km) per hour.
In contrast, the Perseids streak across the sky at 37 miles (59 km) per second.
Best Viewing Time
Sarath Raj, Project Director at Amity Dubai Satellite Ground Station and AmiSat, Amity University Dubai, clarifies, “The shower is active from late September to early December, but best viewed during peak activity in mid-November. The Taurid meteor shower is ancient, produced by debris from Comet 2P/Encke, which orbits the sun every 3.3 years.”
These mesmerizing meteor showers can be observed from nearly any location on Earth, except for the South Pole.
Meteor showers are named based on the constellation from which the meteors appear to emanate, termed the radiant. From our terrestrial viewpoint, the Taurid meteor shower seems to originate from the direction of the Taurus constellation.
Raj continues, “The Taurid meteor shower, with a maximum zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of five, implies that an observer under ideal conditions could witness up to five meteors per hour during its peak activity.”
He goes on to say, “The icy and dusty debris of Comet 2P/Enke’s stream is so large and spread out that it takes Earth a long time to pass through it all, which is why we experience two separate parts of the shower: the Northern Taurids and the Southern Taurids.”
The South Taurids will peak on November 6, 2023, at 4:47 a.m., and the North Taurids will peak on November 13, 2023, at 4:21 a.m. While Comet 2P/Encke is too faint to be seen with the naked eye, it can be observed with a telescope boasting an aperture of 14 inches (350mm) or more.