The Taurid meteor showers, a pair of celestial displays that share a radiant point in the constellation Taurus, are an annual highlight for stargazers. The Taurids are informally known as Halloween fireballs, given that they always peak around the end of October and spawn an unusually high proportion of fireballs, meteors that shine particularly bright (about as bright as Venus in the morning or evening sky) when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
This year, the Southern Taurids are active from late September to late November this year, with a peak on the night of November 4. The Northern Taurids peak a week later, on the night of November 11. It should be noted that they don’t have strong peaks — otherwise known as a single night with a big spike in activity compared to others — so there should also be a decent level of activity on the surrounding nights, meaning that the peak isn’t the only thing worth watching. It also means that a cloudy night doesn’t have to derail the show, as stargazers have ample opportunity to look up in the starry skies.
The moon might make things tricky for the Southern Taurids, as there’s a fairly bright waning gibbous on the 4th. The waning crescent on the 11th will be much less intense, but given how bright fireballs can be, there’s a good chance of seeing an impressive show on both nights. Seeing even one fireball is a big thrill, particularly for a young stargazer.
The best time to view the showers is after midnight but before dawn. To find it, simply trace the path the sun took across the sky to Orion’s belt, a row of three stars that are often used as a landmark by astronomers (and Men in Black screenwriters). Taurus is just above Orion. The radiants of each meteor shower are just above it, to the right of The Pleiades, another particularly bright cluster of stars that can serve as a useful landmark as you and your kids turn off the TV and take in an even more captivating show in the autumn sky.