The Free Press, Mankato, MN


November 10, 2010

Starline: November (meteor) showers

"No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,

 No comfortable feel in any member -

 No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,

 No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds -


-   Thomas Hood

          November might not have flowers and butterflies but it does have three good meteor showers and it may be getting a new shower. This possible new November meteor shower comes from a comet currently passing close to the Earth. Comet Hartley is not visible to the naked eye but in small telescopes it appears as a green glowing cloud. On October 16 two very bright, slow meteors were imaged and both meteors seemed to be traceable back to Comet Hartley.  This could just be a coincidence but if the Earth is moving into a debris trail left by Comet Hartley we might expect more meteors November 2–3. The meteors would appear early in the evening from the constellation Cygnus the swan, directly overhead and like the two previously seen, they should be slow. Early in November is a good time to look for meteors since the moon is at crescent phase. 

Two modest meteor showers occur the first half of November. The North Taurids peak November 5 and the South Taurids peak about Nov. 12. The Taurid showers both have very broad peaks. Watch for Taurid meteors coming from the constellation Taurus, the Bull, high in the east just after midnight.  Both Taurid showers are thought to be debris from comet Encke.

The Leonids meteor shower is the best shower of November and one of the best showers of the year. This year it is predicted to peak about 4:00 p.m., CST, November 17. That is during the day and unfortunately the waxing gibbous moon will brighten the night sky. If you really want to see Leonid meteors, try watching the sky a few hours before sunrise November 17 and 18. Leonid meteors are distinctive because they are very fast. The Leonid meteors are particles from the comet Tempel-Tuttle.

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