Earth experiences high activity Taurid meteor showers

Recent reports of fireballs in the sky above Thailand and Poland could be a sign of Earth’s movement into the comet debris known as the Taurids meteor shower.

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Taurid fireball photographed on 28 October 2005 by Hiroyuki Iida, Toyama, Japan. 2015 was predicted as a ‘swarm’ year by David Asher of the Armagh Planetarium. Credit: Hiroyuki Iida

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Earth is currently moving through the debris from Comet Encke, causing a meteor shower visible in the night sky as the cosmic dust hits the planet’s atmosphere at just under 105,000 kilometres per hour.

These pieces of dust are only the size of small pebbles, but the speeds at which they hit Earth’s atmosphere are sufficient to cause bright streaks in the sky.

But while most years see a relatively minor light display, 2015 is currently experiencing higher activity than usual.

“The annual Taurid meteor shower is going on right now, and we are seeing steady activity in our meteor cameras,” says Bill Cooke, lead for the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office.

“Individuals should not be surprised if they see a bright meteor or fireball over the next few nights.”

The rise in meteor activity is known as the Taurid ‘swarm’ and is caused as Earth moves into a swarm of fragments from the comet.

British astronomer David Asher, who works at the Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland, had previously identified 2015 as a ‘swarm’ year, and his prediction has been proved correct.

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According to Asher, these Taurid swarms are known to cause fireballs visible in the sky.