Each year around this time, Earth drifts through a cloud of debris left behind by Comet 2P/Encke that’s associated with the Taurid meteor shower active now. And about every seven years, our planet visits a particularly dense pocket of the cosmic detritus that can produce fire in the sky just in time for some Halloween celestial spookiness.
The last time we got this Taurid swarm was 2015, so we’re due for another in 2022.
These fireballs aren’t anything to worry about. They’re basically oversized shooting stars, typically pebble- to softball-size pieces of space stuff that impact our planet and burn up in a sometimes spectacular fashion as they sizzle through our upper atmosphere.
The peak of Taurid activity this year is set for Nov. 5, but it could be worth venturing out and gazing skyward as long as you can any evening for a week on either side of that date. So when you’re out trick-or-treating on Oct. 31, keep one eye peeled for some mischievous meteors above.
Stellar 2021 Perseid meteor shower shines in shots from around the world
There is the issue of a full moon on Nov. 8, which means its presence in the night sky will wash out many of the more fleeting Taurid shooting stars, but not the fireballs.
On a normal year, you’d be lucky to see one or two fireballs per night over the next few weeks. But if we do get a swarm as expected, you might be able to catch a few in a single hour, which is quite a treat. Definitely sweeter than more candy corn.
To maximize your chance of catching a Taurid fireball, get as far away from urban light pollution as possible and go outside around midnight local time, preferably on a cloudless evening. Find a spot with a wide view of the sky and try to orient yourself in such a way that the moon isn’t in your field of view or at your back. Give your eyes time to adjust and take at least an hour to just relax and watch.
Be sure to dress appropriately for the night time climate where you are and bring refreshments so you aren’t tempted to go back inside and lose your night vision.
Remember, don’t get spooked. It all burns up before it hits the ground. Well, usually.