The annual Taurid meteor shower is set to peak this week in a display of shooting stars and fireballs across the night sky. Although they are not the most prolific of showers, the Taurids are known for producing fireballs – extremely bright meteors.
Up to 10 meteors are generally seen per hour during the shower's peak, which this year will be from 5 to 12 November. A stronger meteor shower, the Leonids, will peak around 17 November.
According to experts, 2015 will be a good year for the shower as it will not be obscured by a full moon. Some scientists have said bright fireballs may be more numerous due to a higher likelihood of pebble-sized fragments from the shower's parent comet that burn up in the atmosphere.
The American Meteor Society said in a statement: "The Taurids are not known for their high numbers, rather they are known more for the fireballs they produce. Occasionally there are more Taurid fireballs than normal. 2015 may be such a year. These increased numbers of fireballs are due to the fact that the Earth encounters larger than normal particles shed by Comet 2P/Encke, the parent comet of the Taurids."
Bill Cooke, who heads Nasa's Meteoroid Environments Office, said: "The annual meteor shower is going on right now, and we are seeing steady activity in our meteor cameras. Individuals should not be surprised if they see a bright meteor or fireball over the next few nights."
Bright green fireballs have recently been spotted over eastern Poland and Bangkok, although they may not be from the Taurids.
Where does the meteor shower come from?
The shower is named after the meteor's radiant point in the constellation Taurus, where they seem to come from in the sky. They are sometimes referred to as the "Halloween fireballs" as they occur in late October and early November.
There are actually two branches of the shower. The South Taurids are expected to peak on 5 and 6 November, while the North Taurids are expected to peak around 11 and 12 November. The shower is the result of Earth passing through the stream of debris left behind from Comet Encke, a periodic comet that completes an orbit of the Sun once every 3.3 years.
What are meteor showers?
Meteors come from leftover comet particles from broken asteroids. When comets pass around the sun, the dust they emit turns into a trail around their orbits. The Earth passes through these debris trails and the particles collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate and burn up, creating flashes of light across the sky.
For the best chance of seeing a meteor shower, find an area with little light pollution where you can set up camp with a sleeping bag, blanket or chair – as you might be in for the long haul. Nasa advises to lie flat on your back so you have a panoramic view of the night sky. It will take around 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark, which will help you spot the shower.