The Buzz

Leaves aren't the only things falling; keep eyes peeled for shooting stars

A shooting star streaking across the night sky with a bare tree in the foreground.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

It's not just leaves that are falling at this time of year. Fall is a busy season for meteors too, so keep your eyes cast to the sky at night to see if you can spot a shooting star to wish upon.

November opens with three active meteor showers, and two more get underway during the month. In addition, three of these five meteor showers will peak in November, meaning your odds of seeing a meteor are good if you know when to look.

To start the month, the Orionids, southern Taurids and northern Taurids are all active. The Orionids meteor shower will last until Nov. 22, but it peaked in October, the American Meteor Society reports. The northern and southern Taurids will both reach their peak in the first half of November, the southern Taurids on the night of Nov. 5 into 6 and the northern Taurids the night of Nov. 11 into 12.

Neither of these meteor showers is as active as some of the more well-known showers, like the Perseids, but during the period when the two showers are running concurrently there is often a noticeable uptick in fireball activity. Fireballs are especially bright meteors that can be seen across a wide area, the meteor society reports. They will look brighter than Venus in the night sky, and they sometimes have colorful trails behind them as they shoot across the sky.

The Leonids and the Geminids meteor showers both begin in November. The Leonids will run from Nov. 3 to Dec. 2, peaking the night of Nov. 17 to 18. The Geminids runs from Nov. 19 to Dec. 24, peaking the night of Dec. 13 into 14. 

Meteors can streak across the sky at any time of day, even in broad daylight, when sunlight obscures our ability to view them. They are usually best viewed after midnight, and the prime viewing hours for many meteor showers are the predawn hours, typically between 3 and 4 a.m., according to NASA. For optimal viewing, pick a spot away from bright city lights, and make sure to give yourself about a half-hour for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

If seeing the stars and the moon rendezvous in the night sky is something you enjoy, mark you calendar for Nov. 9. In the early morning hours, just before the sun rises, Venus will be shining brightly just above a crescent moon in the eastern sky, EarthSky reports. If you miss it, or if the weather doesn't cooperate, you'll have another chance to see Venus in the pale light of the crescent moon in the early morning hours of Dec. 9 as well. In December, Venus will be to the left of the crescent moon.

The full moon for November will be Nov. 27. It will reach its fullest point in the early morning hours of Nov. 27, at 3:16 a.m. precisely. It will look full in the night sky on both Nov. 26 and 27.

The November full moon is called the beaver moon because it is the time of year when beavers slow down and retreat to their lodges after a busy season gathering food to store for the winter ahead, the Old Farmer's Almanac reports. In the fur trade era, it was also a time of year when beavers were trapped for their valuable furs, which were thick in preparation for winter. Other nicknames for the November full moon used by Native tribes include the deer rutting moon, the digging moon, the freezing moon, the frost moon and the whitefish moon. 

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