Shooting stars to light up Bonfire Night as Taurid meteor shower hits its peak

The universe could be set to outshine Britain’s fireworks this Bonfire Night.

The Taurids meteor shower is about to reach its peak, which means up to 10 shooting stars will be visible in the sky every hour.

You might have to stay up late to catch a star because the celestial display is at its best in the early mornings between November 4 and 6.

‘The Taurids are a minor meteor shower expected to produce about 5-10 meteors an hour,’ the National Space Centre in Leicester, Englan explained.

‘Unusually, these meteors come from not one but two streams of debris – dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10 and debris from Comet 2P Encke. As these dust grains hit Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, they heat up and disintegrate in flashes of light that we call meteors.

‘Despite the low numbers, the Taurids are worth staying up for. They’re known to produce the occasional “fireball”, or exceptionally bright meteor, streaking across the sky. In 2019, the first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving the sky dark and perfect for meteor viewing.’

The Taurid meteor shower is believed to be the source of the 500ft meteor which exploded in the sky over the Stony Tunguska River in 1908.

The mysterious ‘Tunguska event’ was the largest asteroid impact in recorded history and caused an explosion 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima.

In total, 80 million trees were knocked down over an area of 800 square miles hidden deep in the Siberian forest when a meteor which was up to 190 metres wide crashed into Earth.

If the object which caused this devastation had hit a populated area, it could have killed millions and razed a city to the ground.

n 2017, scientists warned that asteroids big enough to cause ‘continental’ damage could be lurking within a new branch of the Taurids.

Researchers at the Czech Academy of Sciences writing in Astronomy and Astrophysics, warn that a previously undiscovered branch of the Taurids could harbour asteroids of up to ‘several hundred meters in diameter’.

In a research paper published on Arxiv last year, a team of scientists said our planet is hit by slightly bigger objects every 1,000 years – although they also claimed an impact from a smaller object might happen during a period of between 100 and 500 years.

‘There remains a potentially significant discrepancy in the frequency of Tunguska-sized and Chelyabinsk-sized impact,’ they wrote, also referring to an incident in 2013 which left 400 people injured.

Although an impact from a Tunguska-sized object would not wipe out humanity, it could kill millions.

These smaller rocks are also hard to guard against because they can sneak up on our planet and may only be detected just before they hit us.

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