Meteor Section        

 
 

January 15, 2021

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for January 16-22, 2021

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

January 8, 2021

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for January 9-15, 2021

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

January 4, 2021

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for January 2-8, 2021

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

The Quadrantids can be one of the strongest displays of the year, yet they are difficult to observe. The main factor is that the display of strong activity only has a duration of about 6 hours. The reason the peak is so short is due to the shower’s thin stream of particles and the fact that the Earth crosses the stream at a perpendicular angle. Unlike most meteor showers which originate from comets, the Quadrantids have been found to originate from an asteroid. Asteroid 2003 EH1 takes 5.52 years to orbit the sun. It is possible that 2003 EH1 is a “dead comet” or a new kind of object being discussed by astronomers sometimes called a “rock comet.”

These meteors were first noted in 1825 and appeared to radiate from the obsolete constellation of Quadrans Muralis (Mural Quadrant). Today, this area of the sky lies within the boundaries of the constellation of Boötes the herdsman. During early January nights as seen from the northern hemisphere, this area of the sky lies very low in the northwest in the evening sky. Very little activity is normally seen at this time. As the night progresses this area of the sky swings some 40 degrees beneath the northern celestial pole. From areas south of 40 degrees north latitude, it actually passes below the horizon. It then begins a slow rise into the northeastern sky where it obtains a useful altitude around 02:00 local standard time (depending on your latitude). It is between this time and dawn that you will have your best chance to view these meteors. If the peak occurs during this time you will be in for a treat as rates could exceed 100 per hour as seen from rural locations under a moonless sky. Unfortunately a bright waning gibbous moon will be present this year at this time. This will severely reduce the number of meteors that can be seen. Yet, if your sky is clear and transparent, you still have the opportunity to view quite a few meteors .

According to the International Meteor Organization’s 2021 Meteor Shower Calendar (page 3) the Quadrantids are predicted to peak near 14:30 Universal Time on January 3, 2021. This timing is favorable for the Alaska and mid-eastern Pacific longitudes of the northern hemisphere. Those viewing from the southern hemisphere will not see much activity at all as the radiant does not rise very high in their sky before dawn intervenes. Regardless of where you live, the morning of January 3rd 2021, will offer the best chance of seeing any Quadrantid activity.

The best strategy to see the most activity is to face the northeast quadrant of the sky and center your view about half-way up in the sky. By facing this direction you be able to see meteors shoot out of the radiant in all directions. This will make it easy to differentiate between the Quadrantids and random meteors from other sources. To provide a scientific useful observing session one needs to carefully note the starting and ending time of your session and the time each meteor appears. The type of meteor needs to be recorded as well as its magnitude. Other parameters that can be recorded are colors, velocity (degrees per second or verbal description) and whether the meteor left a persistent train. Fireballs should be noted and a separate online form filled out after the session.

Serious observers should watch for at least an hour as numerous peaks and valleys of activity will occur. If you only few for a short time it may coincide with a lull of activity. Watching for at least an hour guarantees you will get to see the best this display has to offer. The serious observer is also encouraged to fill out a visual observing form on the website of the International Meteor Organization located at: https://www.imo.net/members/imo_registration/register/ . You must register to use the form but this is free.

This illustration above depicts the Quadrantid radiant as seen during the morning hours looking low toward the northeast. The brilliant star Arcturus is a good guide to this area of the sky. All Quadrantid meteors will trace back to the radiant area located in northern Bootes. There are several other minor showers active during this time plus random meteors that will appear in different paths than the Quadrantids with different velocities.

In 2022, the Quadrantids are predicted to peak with no moon present near 21:00 UT on January 3rd. This timing favors most of Asia, while the remainder of the world experiences daylight or early evening. We look forward to hearing your results of this year’s display!

 
 

December  25, 2020

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for December 26, 2020-January 1, 2021

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 
Location of the Ursid (URS) radiant on December 21/22, looking slightly east (right) of due north.

The Ursid meteor shower is the least observed of the major annual showers. In the northern hemisphere December nights are cold and often cloudy. Another hindrance is the fact that it peaks just before the Christmas holiday when many people are busy with holiday festivities. This shower is completely invisible from the southern hemisphere as the radiant lies too far north to be seen from south of the equator this time of year.

The Ursids are active from December 18-23 with a sharp maximum on December 22nd. Activity is normally low away from maximum with rates less than 1 shower member per hour. At maximum activity this source normally adds 5-10 medium velocity meteors to the 15 or so that are normally seen each morning hour from dark sky sites. This year though, the earth passes close to several past trails of debris that closely follow the orbit of comet 8P/Tuttle. This could enhance the Ursid activity seen this year. See the list of encounters in chronological order below listing the year of the debris trail, the expected time of maximum activity and the expected activity:

  • 815 debris trail, December 22, 03h − 22h UT Expected activity: High
  • 719 & 733 debris trails, December 22, 03h15m − 03h40m UT Expected activity: Low
  • filament, December 22, 05h27m UT Expected activity: Low
  • 829 debris trail, December 22, 06h10m UT Expected activity: High
  • 801 debris trail, December 22, 17h31m UT Expected activity: Low

These predictions are no guarantee of exceptional activity as the timing is easier to predict than the density of the dust trails. The moon will be near its first quarter phase and half illuminated. Therefore it will set near midnight local standard time for most locations. The most favorable time appears to be near 6:10 Universal Time on December 22nd, when the Earth encounters the trail of debris from the trail created in the year 829. This timing favors western Europe all the way to the west coast of North America, basically wherever it is night at that time. Those in western North America will have to deal with moonlight while the moon will have set for all the other locations to the east. The northern polar and sub-polar regions are also favored as the radiant remains high in the sky at all times.

At maximum, the Ursid radiant lies just west of the fairly bright (2nd magnitude) star known as Kochab (beta Ursae Minoris). To those not familiar with star names, this area lies adjacent to the bowl of the “Little Dipper” as shown in the star chart. This area of the sky lies lowest in the northern sky near 20:00 (8pm) local standard time. This is the worst time to view the Ursids as most of the activity will occur beyond your line of sight, below the northern horizon. As the night progresses the Ursid radiant will slowly rise higher into the sky and is best placed during the last dark hour before dawn. To best view this activity it is suggested that you face toward the northern half of the sky. It doesn’t have to be directly at the radiant, but it’s a good idea to have the radiant within your field of view to help with shower association. Don’t look straight up as this is the worst place to look for meteors. Lower you view so that none of the horizon blocks your view. About half way up in the sky is suggested for most observers.

Despite the bitter cold, try to view for at least an hour. Meteor activity is notoriously variable and if you view for only a short time, it may occur during a lull in activity. Viewing for at least an hour ensures you will see several peaks and valleys of activity. Serious observers can contribute to our knowledge of the Ursids by providing data on each meteor they see. The time and magnitude of each meteor are most important. Additional information such as color, velocity, and persistent train phenomena can also be recorded. Note that not every meteor will be an Ursid. There are several minor showers also active during this period adding a few meteors to the hourly total. There are also upwards of 10 random meteors appearing each hour to add to your count. Therefore shower association of each meteor must be included.

Observers are encouraged to share their meteor observations with the International Meteor Organization as soon as possible after the session by filling out an online visual form. If you happen to be observing at a time of high meteor activity be sure to use smaller time periods within your session so that no period has excess of 20 meteors.

If you have never viewed this shower, be sure to check it out this year!

 
 

December 18, 2020

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for December 19-25, 2020

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

December 11, 2020

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for December 12-18, 2020

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 
Composite image showing several meteors from the 2014 Geminid meteor shower at Topaz Lake on the California-Nevada border. © Jeff Sullivan 2014 

The most dependable meteor shower

Year in and year out the Geminids are currently the most dependable meteor shower. Unfortunately, they are active in December when temperatures are often cold and skies cloudy in the northern hemisphere. Then is this display worth viewing this year? Most certainly! So it may be chilly out, but if you bundle up and step outside over the next week, you’ll be able to enjoy one of the most active meteor showers of the year!

The Geminids are often bright and intensely colored. Due to their medium-slow velocity, persistent trains are not usually seen. These meteors are also seen in the southern hemisphere, but only during the middle of the night and at a reduced rate.

Unlike most other meteor showers, the Geminids are not associated with a comet but with an asteroid. 3200 Phaethon is an asteroid with an orbit that brings it closer to the Sun than any other named asteroid (though there are numerous unnamed asteroids with smaller perihelia*). For this reason, it was named after the Greek myth of Phaëthon, son of the sun god Helios. Even though 3200 Phaethon is classified as an asteroid, it often acts like a comet by ejecting dust when it nears the sun. The Earth is near the orbit of 3200 Phaethon during the first three weeks of December. It comes closest to the core of the orbit on December 14th each year. This is the date most Geminid meteors are encountered and seen. When the Earth is near the edge of the orbital debris of the asteroid, little activity is seen.

* The perihelia is the point in a solar orbit where the orbiting body is closest to the sun.

So when and where do I look?

The Geminids are expected to be active between December 1st and 22nd this year. The highest rates are expected to occur on the night of December 13/14, when rates can exceed one per minute from dark sky sites. The early portion of the Geminid activity will be difficult to observe due to the waning gibbous moon. The moon will not reach its last quarter phase until December 7th. On that date the half-illuminated moon will lie above the horizon from midnight onward. One can still view Geminid activity during the evening hours but rates will be low due to the fact that the maximum is a week away and that the radiant lies low in the east during the early evening hours. During December 7-14, the moon will rise approximately 45 minutes later with each passing night. This will allow you to watch later in the night with each passing day. By December 12, the moon will be a non-factor as it will be a slender crescent and will not rise until the start of dawn. If your weather appears to be overcast on the peak night, the two nights prior and the one night after the peak will also produce impressive activity.

Position of the Geminids Radiant on Dec 13th, 22:00 UTC

The prime hours to watch Geminid activity are between 11pm and 4am local standard time. During these hours the radiant of the Geminid meteors will lie highest above the horizon. The radiant lies in the constellation of Gemini near the bright star known as Castor (alpha Geminorum). The radiant is not the actual source of the meteors. This artificial point in the sky, as well as the stars of Gemini, happen to lie in the background while the stream of Geminid meteors enter the atmosphere, seemingly from the radiant in the constellation of Gemini. The radiant point and the constellation of Gemini serves as a useful guide to identifying Geminids as not all meteors seen in December are Geminids. There are several other minor showers radiating from the constellations of Orion, Monoceros, Hydra, and Leo Minor, to name a few. There are also random meteors that appear from all over the sky. These meteors once belonged to their own meteor shower, but time has dispersed them to the point that a connection with other meteors is now impossible. On the night of maximum activity, the Geminids will provide over 90 percent of the meteor activity during the night. As you move away from the peak night this percentage falls drastically.

Geminid meteors can appear in any part of the sky. You do not have to face the constellation of Gemini to see them. It does help to have the radiant somewhere within your field of view. This will help in the identification of each meteor. Geminid meteors will shoot outward from the radiant while others will have random paths and speeds. Geminid meteors will appear slowest and shortest near the radiant. This is due to foreshortening as the meteors seen close to the radiant are moving in a direction toward you. Geminid meteors will appear fastest and longest at a point 90 degrees away from the radiant. Beyond 90 degrees distant from the radiant, the meteors will begin to slow and become shorter again.

During the early evening hours, I like to face eastward and watch Geminid earthgrazers shoot from the northeastern horizon. When viewed at this time and position, the Geminid meteoroids (meteors still in outer space) can only graze the upper portions of the atmosphere. Due to the lower density of air molecules at this altitude, the meteors take longer to disintegrate and thus create long streaks in the sky. Most of these long streaks appear low in the north or south, but if you are lucky you will witness some that shoot high overhead.

As the night progresses, the Geminid radiant rises higher into the eastern sky. Their duration and length will become noticeably shorter as they can now penetrate deeper into the atmosphere. This should not cause concern as these meteors still disintegrate while still many miles high in the atmosphere. While the individual meteors may become less impressive, there will now be many more of them as you can now see the meteors that were once shooting downward, below the horizon. For the remainder of the night the Geminids will produce an occasional colorful fireball, which is a meteor brighter than all the objects in the sky except the sun and moon. You may think that fireballs are created by very large meteoroids. Actually, fireballs can be produced by object as small as golf balls. When you consider the average meteor is produced by meteoroids the size of small pebble, then a golf ball is large compared to them. Geminid fireballs are notable for their intense color. Many of these are brilliant green, as well as yellow and orange.

During the peak hours of the Geminid display I like to face due south and have the radiant drift westward through my field of view. This also allows me to monitor the minor showers that are active in the same region of the sky. If I have enough energy to view until dawn, I tend to shift my view more westward to keep the radiant within my field of view.

Don’t go outside and stand to try and view the Geminid activity. Your neck will quickly stiffen and you will soon tire. I suggest using a comfortable lounge chair that allows you to look half-way up in the sky comfortably. Bring plenty of blankets to keep warm. Those who wish to contribute meteor counts should watch for at least one hour. The reason for this is that meteoroids are distributed randomly in outer space. When quoted hourly rates are 60, this does not mean you will see one meteor every minute. There will be 5 to 10 minute periods when little activity is evident. There will also be periods of similar length when there will be continuous activity of 3-4 meteors per minute. There are several “peaks” and “valleys” of meteor activity each hour so if you only watch for a short time, you may find yourself viewing during one of the lulls of activity.

2012 Geminid Meteor Shower over the Canary Islands © StarryEarth / Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias
Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 50.0 mm, ISO 3200 – composite

Viewing meteor activity is a great way to easily contribute to science by being a citizen scientist. In order to produce scientifically useful data you need to view for at least one hour and provide shower associations with each meteor you witness. It also is necessary to provide us with the magnitude of the faintest star you can see. This is easily done by counting the number of stars visible with certain areas of the sky. Charts for these areas are available at: https://www.imo.net/observations/methods/visual-observation/major/observation/#table1. Chart #4 would be most helpful. Also helpful tips for visual observing are available at: https://www.imo.net/observations/methods/visual-observation/ and https://www.imo.net/observations/methods/visual-observation/major/observation/. In order to share your observations we suggest that you fill out a visual meteor report form provided by the International Meteor Organization. The ALPO Meteors Section also accepts observations emailed directly to: lunro.imo.usa@gmail.com. We wish you good luck and look forward to seeing your viewing results!

 
 

December 4, 2020

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for December 5-11, 2020

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

Older Posts »

   Powered by WordPress     Personalized by: Larry Owens     Contact the Webmaster