The very skies are set to honor veterans on their day this year, as the North Taurid meteor shower descends, peaking late in the night of November 11 into November 12.
The shower itself lasts for weeks—officially this shower began on October 12 and goes through December 2—but it reaches its maximum on Monday night. It overlapped slightly with the South Taurids, though those were not very visible to denizens of Turtle Island. The North Taurids “usually don’t offer more than about seven meteors per hour,” according to Earthsky.org, and neither did their fainter counterparts, the South Taurids, which peaked earlier in November.
The two showers are fed by two meteor streams that “are very spread out and diffuse,” Earthsky.org notes.
“Typically, you see the maximum numbers at around midnight, when Taurus the Bull is highest in the sky,” Earthsky.org reports. “Taurid meteors tend to be slow-moving, but sometimes very bright. In 2013, a bright waxing gibbous moon will bleach out all but the brighter meteors during the evening and wee morning hours. But the moon will set after midnight, providing lots of predawn darkness for watching the North Taurids on the morning of November 12.”
Those who do not feel the need to stay up late in hopes of an elusive Taurid may simply opt to feast the eyes on the spectacle of Venus, which is especially bright this month because of its position relative to the sun.
"Soon after sunset, Venus emerges to shine like a beacon over the southwestern horizon," said Space.com, quoting the Hubble Space Telescope science team. "A telescope provides a slightly better view. Late in the evening, look for magnificent Jupiter in the east. Watch as it climbs higher into the autumn night sky."
This was quite evident a few days ago, when Venus and the crescent moon were seen together on the horizon.
Venus has phases just as the moon does, and at the moment it is growing in apparent size as it orbits closer to Earth, even though it is at the same time thinning to a crescent. When it is “full” it is on the other side of the sun from us, so is much smaller, Space.com explains. If one was to look at it through a telescope it would be a perfect half circle. Its proximity makes it exceedingly bright. In addition it sets about 2.5 hours after sundown around this time, Space.com says, so it is more than double the size it looked in July—perhaps looking similar to the dazzling light that confused an Air Canada pilot last year.
So there is plenty to see in the coming days, though some of it may require visual aids such as binoculars or a telescope. However, in terms of shooting stars, there will be plenty of those to wish upon, for patient observers with a dark sky.
“Remember,” Earthsky.org reminds us, “even a single bright meteor can make your night!”