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Fireball 'Swarm' Expected During Meteor Shower This Week

(CBS) -- The typically tepid Taurid meteor shower is coming on strong this week with a swarm of fireballs expected.

"There are not many of them. You'll see maybe only a few throughout the night. But when they do come, they're really spectacular," Bill Cooke, lead for the NASA Meteoroid Environments Office, told CBS News.

The annual Taurids -- named for the constellation Taurus, the bull, from which they appear to radiate -- are a particularly large collection of particularly large meteoroids. The "confusing meteor shower," as Cooke described it, stretches across several weeks, from September through November. It is divided into two parts and peaks are hard to distinguish.

The first peak of activity, known as the South , because they radiate from the southern part of Taurus, ended Oct. 30. The first of the North Taurids was spotted on Halloween. They are expected to peak Nov. 12.

This year should be particularly good for viewing since the peak coincides with the new moon.

The best years to catch the show is when there is a "Taurid swarm," which happens every 5 or 6 years.

VIDEO: Fireball Streaks Across LA Skies

Cooke said experts believe this is a swarm year, when many pebble-sized fragments of the comet Encke will burn up as they hit the Earth's atmosphere at 65,000 mph, creating astonishing fireballs.

In meteorite terms, pebble-sized is pretty big; most meteors are smaller than a bead. Their heft gives the Taurids their fantastic glow.

The best time to see the Taurids is when the radiant is highest, around 1:30 a.m. local time. Cooke recommends setting up to watch them between midnight and 3 a.m.

Large parts of California, especially in the Bay Area, are expected to have fair viewing conditions.

© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved.

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