Vail Daily column: Taurid meteor showers to brighten the night’s sky
The other night, instead of my usual after work routine of relaxing at home and cooking dinner, I embarked on an adventure to the Penny Hot Springs outside Carbondale. These naturally heated springs can be found on the side of Colorado Highway 133, on the banks of the Crystal River. After a short scramble down the hill, I lay down in the shallow pool and melted into the warm water. Almost instantly, the chattering of the fellow spring-goers faded into the background as I became mesmerized by the natural beauty surrounding me. The dimly lit, craggy canyon walls backlit by the last glimmer of twilight and the bright constellations that appeared like familiar friends grounded me in the present. After an indefinite time gazing into the great expanse of the night sky, I was suddenly jarred from my peace by a huge meteor, which cut through the dark, streaking the black sky with a fiery light. It is likely that this breathtaking comet was associated with the South Taurid meteor shower, which began Sept. 25 and will last through Nov. 25. Though this shower is characterized by many faint meteors, the Taurid meteor showers are known to boast the occasional awe inspiring fireball, like the one that caught my eye. To catch the peak of this shower, head outside late at night on Wednesday or early the next morning. It is predicted that during this time, there will be roughly seven faint meteors per hour, accompanied by the occasional notably bright shooting star.
Additionally, the North Taurid meteor showers, beginning Oct. 12 and lasting through Dec. 2, will both enhance the peak of the South Taurid shower and give star gazers the chance to view yet another meteor shower in November. The best time to catch the peak of the North Taurid meteor shower is just after midnight on Nov. 12. It is predicted that there will be about seven meteors an hour, similar to the South Taurid meteor shower just days earlier.
The North and South Taurid meteor showers get their names from Taurus, the constellation from which they appear to come. To find Taurus, look for the three bright stars of Orion’s belt. Follow the line of Orion’s belt up into the sky to five bright stars which create a prominent sideways “V” shape. This “V” represents the head and horns of Taurus the bull. Taurus is where most of the meteors will be visible, however,it is possible for them to occur in other places in the sky, as well. However, it is a good idea to keep an eye on Taurus because as this constellation rises higher in the sky, the number of visible meteors should increase.
The Taurid meteor showers present an opportunity to escape routine, relax and acquaint yourself with the constellations that grace the late fall and early winter sky. Whether you watch the meteor showers from the warmth of a hot spring or simply curl up in blankets outside your home, I hope that you make some time to look up at the night sky this November. Don’t forget to make a wish!
Sara Monson works as an educator and graduate fellow at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. Join them Mondays through Saturdays at 2 p.m. for a daily nature walk.