Skywatch: The Taurids and the Leonids meteor showers have arrived


When skies clear out this week take the time to look up in the night sky and on Sunday night you can use the moon to help you easily locate Saturn, a beautiful sight if you have a decent telescope. The two will be in the southwestern sky after sunset. The moon will be just above and left of the ringed planet.

The North Taurid meteor shower is expected to peak on Sunday night as well. The shower is caused by leftover debris from Comet Encke. While not a particularly active shower (you're lucky to get more than 5-8 meteors per hour) this one does produce fireballs. These slow-moving, very bright meteors are memorable if you get lucky enough to see one. The shower is most active around midnight when the constellation of Taurus is highest in the sky. The constellation will be nearly overhead in the eastern sky at that point on Sunday night. As always, find a dark spot, far away from the city for the best chance of enjoying the show.

Venus has once again reclaimed the moniker of “Morning Star” and it’ll be easy to spot this week. The planet has this nickname because it’s the third brightest object in the night sky behind the sun and moon. As a result, it drops out of view due to the sun’s glare later than any of the stars in the night sky. Look in the eastern sky about an hour before sunrise and it’ll be shining brightly. Arcturus, the brightest star in Bootes, won’t be far off.

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On Thursday morning the moon will reach First Quarter at 9:54 a.m. The half-moon will be out that evening.

When you spot the half-moon look for the red planet. It will pass extremely close to the planet Mars on Thursday evening. The two will be in the southern sky and Mars will be nearly directly right of the moon shining with a reddish hue.

One of the big meteor showers of the year is peaking this week and early next week. The Leonid meteor shower peaks around the 17th and 18th of November every year. It is caused by leftover debris from comet Tempel-Tuttle. The moon is brightening this week which will hinder some of the shower but it's setting just after one on Saturday morning which means you’ll have a few hours of viewing under a moon-free sky. Look in the east for the constellation Leo for the shower’s radiant. If you can get far enough from the city you could see between 10-20 meteors an hour. Happy hunting!

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