November is a good month to keep your head tilted toward the heavens -- provided it isn't raining cats and dogs.
Not only will B.C. sky-watchers have the opportunity to see the peaks of two meteor showers this month, but they can also watch a full lunar eclipse and the tail end of a third meteor shower.
The Orionid meteor shower kicked off on Sept. 26 and will continue through Nov. 22. The medium-strength shower peaked from Oct. 20 to Oct. 21, producing roughly 10 to 20 shooting stars. In exceptional years, they may produce up to 50 to 75 per hour.
The Northern Taurid meteor shower kicks off as early as Oct. 13 and carries on through to roughly Dec. 2. It will peak around Nov. 12 to Nov. 13.
In a previous interview, Jennifer MacDonald, an astronomer at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, told Vancouver Is Awesome that although the shower's meteors have a slower rate (about five of them appear each hour), they are made of a "heavier material," which "increases the possibility of fireballs a bit."
This might also be a big year for the Northern Taurids. The AMS notes that "there seems to be a seven-year periodicity with these fireballs. 2008 and 2015 both produced remarkable fireball activity. 2022 may be the next opportunity."
Sadly, the moon will be about 88 per cent full at the shower's peak, which could make it more difficult to observe.
What is a fireball?
The American Meteorological Society describes a fireball as a "very bright meteor" that is about the same brightness as the "planet Venus in the morning or evening sky." Additionally, some people report seeing vivid colours because the brightness is "great enough to fall well within the range of human colour vision." Some of them even report hearing "sonic booms, and electrophonic sounds," albeit very rarely.
In order to view the Taurid shower, sky-watchers should search for the constellation Taurus, said MacDonald. "Look for Orion's belt and then go northeast and look for the bright red star, Aldebaran."
The Orionid shower is visible anywhere on Earth and is considered a "medium strength shower." Space.com notes that "If you find the shape of Orion, the hunter, the meteor shower's radiant (or point of origin) will be near Orion's sword, slightly north of his left shoulder (the star Betelgeuse)." That said, the meteors originating in the shower's radiant will have shorter tails and therefore it is best to look slightly away from it.
Leonid Meteor Shower in B.C. skies
Following the total lunar eclipse and the peak of the Northern Taurids, B.C. residents will have an opportunity to catch the finale of another meteor shower: the Leonids.
The Leonid meteor shower kicks off on Nov. 3 and carries through Dec. 2 and is popular for producing five "meteor storms" over the past 200 years. While one of those isn't forecasted for 2022, there may be "good displays" of up to 100 shooting stars per hour, according to the American Meteorological Society.
The Leonids are also popular for producing "bright meteors with a high percentage of persistent trains."
You can catch the peak of the shower on Nov. 17 to Nov.18.
Fall meteor shower 2022 hunting tips in B.C.
To fully enjoy the spectacle, here are a few tips for meteor hunting:
- If possible, head away from city lights, which make it hard to see fainter meteors. To increase your chances of seeing shooting stars, set out in search of dark skies in the countryside.
- If you need to use a flashlight, place a red filter over the bulb (a red balloon will do in a bind). White light is very blinding and may affect your night vision.
- Dress warmly. It is still a good idea to bring warm (even winter) clothes.
- Sit back and relax on a reclining chair or lie down on a blanket. Not only is it much more comfortable to observe the stars lying down, but you'll also see more that way.
- Pack a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee—it will come in handy if you start to drift off or get a little chilly!
- Be patient. It might take a while before you see your first shooting star. Don't be quick to give up... It's worth the wait!