A large number of Taurid fireballs have been reported over the last 3 or 4 nights by observers worldwide. A number of reported events rivaled or exceeded the brigthess of the full Moon. These events seem to be caused by the return of the Taurid resonant meteoroid swarm.


The Taurids are a well known shower. They consist of two branches, the Northern and Southern Taurids which produce a prolonged period of activity from September to November. The Southern Taurids peak on October 12, the Northern Taurids on November 14. Not quite as active as the strongest annual meteor showers such as the Perseids or the Geminids, the Taurids produce moderate activity with ZHR=7-8 meteors per hour. They are well known for beautiful bright, slow and often fragmenting meteors, including fireballs. But occasionally the Taurids prepare a very impressive show!

Throughout the 20th century there were Taurid returns which were stronger than usual and some produced an unusual number of brilliant fireballs. The pattern was studied and explained by David Asher and Victor Clube as a swarm of larger meteoroids trapped in a 7:2 mean motion resonance with Jupiter (Asher & Clube, 1993). Encounters with this denser meteoroid swarm produce above-average returns of the Taurid shower. The model indicated enhance returns (from 1950 onwards) in: 1951, 1954, 1961, 1964, 1971, 1978, 1981, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1998 and 2005. The pattern seems to be confirmed by observations with various methods, including: visual (Dubietis & Arlt, 2007), photographic and spaceborne (Beech et al., 2004). Detailed analysis of visual observations by the International Meteor Organization indicated enhanced activity in swarm years 1988, 1991, 1995, 1998 and 2005 (Dubietis & Arlt, 2007). While the typical ZHR for the Taurids was found to be around 8 meteors per hour, it doubles to 12-17 during swarm returns. Also the number of fireballs increases a lot – while less than 1% of Taurids are fireballs during normal returns, the fraction increases to 2.4-4.6% during swarm returns!

The last year that the Taurids made a truely remarkable swarm return was 2005. The shower peaked on November 1/2 with ZHR=15. But what made the 2005 Taurids absolutely outstanding were the numerous brilliant fireballs seen around the world, numerous much brighter than the full Moon!

This year the pattern seems to be repeating! Take the opportunity and observe this shower, you may well be rewarded with a bright fireball! The Taurid radiant(s) rise just after dusk and are above the horizon for the entire night. Currently (November 4) the waning crescent Moon rises around midniht local time and will be rising later every successive night. This means favourable dark skies in evening hours.

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