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Watching the night sky: Meteor showers and Northern Lights possible this weekend

Andrew Fazekas, reporting
November 4, 2011 — Andrew Fazekas tells you what to look for in the night sky this week.

Increased solar activity could spark auroras this weekend
Increased solar activity could spark auroras this weekend

Skywatchers may get a chance to see bright fireballs streak across night skies thanks to the Taurid meteor shower. Named after the Taurus constellation, where the shooting stars appear to radiate out from, meteors are expected to fall with rates of up to 15 per hour during peak time in the predawn hours of November 5th and 6th.

While the rates are modest when compared to the summer Perseids which fall at 120 per hour, the Taurids are known to produce very bright meteors called fireballs - more than any other annual shower. Observers even in light-polluted sububan locations can catch these baseball-sized space rocks burning up in the overhead skies.

Some will be brighter than the full moon and leaving behind a lingering smoke trail. The best way to see the Taurids is to face the eastern sky and just look with the unaided eyes at the overhead sky for those quick streaks of light. Just don't forget to bundle up and keep warm!

As a cosmic bonus for skywatchers, the Sun has produced a gigantic set of sunspots earlier this week that astronomers say are producing powerful solar flares, some of which may be directed at Earth within the next few days. Space weather experts are predicting a 20 percent chance of auroras being sparked by the increased solar activity over the weekend.

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