WHEN: 6/7 and 16/17 November (Taurids); 16/17 and 18/19 November (Leonids)
November is the month in which the annual Leonid meteor shower reaches its peak but before this happens, there’s much less understated activity from the Northern Taurid stream. This is active from 20 October to 10 December, with peak
activity occurring on 12 November. Although the shower has a low peak zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of just five meteors per hour, it has a broad peak period, possibly as wide as 10 days. The 27km/s entry speed of the Taurids is slow in meteor terms and this, coupled with some good bright trails, make the shower ideal for general meteor photography.
Where the Taurids are slow the Leonids are very fast, with an entry speed of 71km/s. Every 33 years (the length of the Leonids’ parent comet’s orbit around the Sun) the shower becomes a storm. This year we’re roughly midway between outbursts, the last occurring at the turn of the century, so the general level of Leonid activity will be quite low with an expected ZHR between 10-20 meteors per hour.
Activity normally occurs between 6-30 November with the peak on the night of 17/18 November. The Leonids’ radiant drifts slowly over time but on maximum night it’s conveniently positioned within the head of Leo, the Lion, in the curved top of the Sickle asterism. A number of low-rate enhancements have been predicted for the days after the peak so it’s always worth keeping an eye out.
The Moon is new on 7 November, which is ideal for the Northern Taurids. It’s approaching full Moon for the Leonids’ peak, but this shower is best observed after local midnight anyway, when the Moon has set, so prospects for a decent display this year are good if the weather plays ball. As ever, give yourself at least 20 minutes in complete darkness before starting your session. Look two thirds of the way up the sky in any direction.
The radiant for the Leonid meteor shower travels through Leo’s Sickle asterism during November