Meteor Section        

 
 

August 7, 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 August 8-14, 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

 
 
Perseid meteors over Luzern, Switzerland ©right; Orest Shvadchak
(Olympus Corp. E-M10 Mark III, 8mm, 1s, f/1.8, ISO1600)

The Perseids are often the most impressive Meteor Shower of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. The Perseid meteor shower offers a consistently high rate of meteors every year and it occurs in August when the temperatures are usually nice enough for a night under the stars!

Comet Dust

Each July and August the Earth encounters debris left behind from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. This comet has an orbit of 133 years and last entered the inner solar system in 1992. Even though the comet now lies in the outer portions of the solar system, far away from Earth, we still encounter debris that has been left behind during the many trips this comet has made through the solar system.

This meteor shower is perhaps the most popular as it is active during the summer months in the northern hemisphere. There are stronger meteor showers but they appear during the colder time of year in the northern hemisphere when conditions are less inviting. The strength of each Perseid display varies year to year, mainly due to lunar conditions. If a bright moon is above the horizon during the night of maximum activity, then the display will be reduced. Most of the Perseid meteors are faint and bright moonlight will make it difficult to view. Such is the case in 2020 when a bright half-moon will rise near midnight and temper the show just when the activity kicks into high gear.

August 11th / 12th

To view the Perseids at their best, you need to know when to watch. During the evening hours the radiant, the area of the sky where Perseid meteors shoot from, is located low in the northern sky. This is the worst time to try and view the shower for sheer numbers as most of the activity will occur beyond your line of sight, being blocked by the horizon. The few that do come your way this time of night are special. The reason is that they just skim the upper regions of the atmosphere and will last much longer than Perseids seen during the morning hours. Since they last longer they also will travel a much longer distance across the sky. Most of these “earthgrazing” Perseids will be seen low in the east or west, traveling north to south. Occasionally one will pass overhead and will be unforgettable as you watch it shoot across the sky for several seconds. While these meteors are few, they are certainly worth the effort to try and catch. Since the moon will interfere with morning meteor observing, more emphasis should be on viewing prior to midnight this year.

As the Earth rotates and the time approaches local midnight, the Perseid radiant has risen higher into the northeastern sky. The meteors are now shorter and last only a few tenths of a second. You still only see about half of the actual activity as the remainder still occur beyond your line of sight. As the morning progresses, the activity will increase as the radiant climbs higher into the sky. Theoretically, the best time to watch the Perseids is just before the break of dawn when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. This is usually around 04:00 local time. Experienced observers often say the hour between 03:00 and 04:00 is usually the best, not 04:00 to 05:00. Perhaps this is due to fatigue as experienced observers have watched for several hours by then and may have trouble staying alert.

The strongest Perseid rates this year are expected to occur on the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning August 11/12, when the Earth closest to the core orbit of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. If you cannot observe on that night activity will still be good on Monday and Thursday. The further you watch from August 12, the weaker the display will be. To view the Perseids successfully, it is suggested you watch from a safe rural area that is as dark as possible. The more stars you can see, the more meteors will also be visible. No matter the time of night, Perseid meteors can be seen in all portions of the sky. No matter which direction you look, it is advisable to aim your center of view about half-way up in the sky. Don’t look straight up as more activity is visible at lower elevations. Some observers like to view toward the constellation Perseus and the radiant. This way they can see Perseid meteors travel in all directions. The disadvantage of viewing in this direction is that the Perseid meteors will be short, especially near the radiant. The other choice is to face away from the radiant and witness longer meteors, which are more impressive. Even if the radiant is at your back, you can still distinguish Perseid meteors from others as they will all travel in the same parallel paths and will have similar velocities.

Position of the Radiant on August 12th

Share!

While viewing this meteor shower we encourage observers to contribute data to our organization by counting the number of meteors seen during a specific time range and sharing that data with us. A period of at least an hour is suggested as meteor displays are notoriously variable. One can watch for 10 minutes and see no activity at all! Just a few minutes later several meteors may appear nearly simultaneously. To even out these “peaks and valleys” is why we ask for viewing periods of at least an hour. Not all meteors you see will be Perseids. There are other weak showers active during the Perseids plus there are many random meteors that occur each hour too. Separating these different meteors adds to the value of your data. It is also important to estimate the faintest star you can easily see by reporting a limiting magnitude. The faintest stars most observers can see from a rural location is around magnitude +6.0. Very dark sites can approach +7.0. Light polluted skies usually offer limiting magnitudes of +5.0 and lower. An estimate of your limiting magnitude will allow us to correct your data to a similar limiting magnitude so that all counts will be compared under similar conditions. Don’t forget to mention any clouds or obstacles that block your field of view. These will reduce your counts.

If you are experienced enough, we encourage you to share your observation to the International Meteor Organization. Helpful hints on how to do this are available here.

The bottom line is to have fun watching nature’s fireworks. If you can have fun and contribute data too, that helps us understand more about this phenomena.

 
 

July 31, 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 August 1-7, 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

 
 

July 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 July 25-31, 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

 
 

July 17, 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 July 18-24, 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

 
 

One good thing about a Perseid maximum with lunar interference is that it guarantees that two weeks prior that the Southern delta Aquariids (SDA) will peak under good conditions. Such is the case in 2020 when the last quarter moon will diminish the Perseid peak. The SDA’s will peak on July 29th with a waxing gibbous moon setting just as the SDA radiant culminates in the southern sky. Now this display will not replace the mighty Perseids as it is much weaker, especially as seen from mid-northern latitudes. But it is a nice warmup to the Perseids as the southern sky is full of active radiants this time of year. The strongest of these by far are the Southern delta Aquariids.

These meteors were first noticed in the mid-19th century. It is still not precisely known what is the parent object of these meteors. The orbits of these meteors display a similarity to that of the Daylight Arietids and the Quadrantids. It is possible that all three of these displays are produced by remnants of comet C/1490 Y1. These remnants include comet 96P/Machholz and the asteroid known as 2003 EH1.

The Earth first encounters debris associated with the SDA’s on July 19th. Rates increase steadily until the maximum is reached 10 days later. The decline from maximum is far less steep as these meteors can still be seen through August 18th. Some studies even stated that the SDA’s remain active until September. The problem with that though is that rates at this time are so low that sporadic interlopers, imitating SDA’s, exceed any true SDA’s during this period.

When the SDA’s first start appearing, the radiant lies on the Aquarius/Capricornus border. For the next 10 nights it moves eastward at just under 1 degree per night and ends up just west of the 3rd magnitude star known as Skat (delta Aquarii) on the night of maximum activity. As August arrives the radiant continues through central Aquarius until it crosses the border into Cetus near the time of the Perseid maximum.

SDA’s radiant position on July 19th, 2020

To view the SDA’s in 2020, it would be best to watch as close to July 29th as possible. It would also be wise to wait until the moon has set to see the most activity. Once August arrives, the moon will remain above the horizon most of the night making observations difficult at best.

For observers located at mid-northern latitudes, the radiant will not rise higher than 30 degrees. This means that half of the activity will be missed even under perfect conditions. The further south you go in the northern hemisphere, the better you chances will be to see more activity from this source. The best location lies at latitude 16 south, where the radiant passes directly overhead. Observers further south than this will have slightly worse viewing conditions, but still much better than a majority of the northern hemisphere.

Your plan to see these meteors would be to observe between the hours of 2-4am local daylight savings time. It doesn’t matter greatly where you live longitudinally, as the radiant reaches its maximum altitude near the same time. If you do not observe daylight saving time, then 1-3am would be optimal. I would suggest facing due south about halfway up in the sky. Don’t stand and watch as you will quickly tire. Lie in a comfortable lounge chair for at least an hour. Since meteor activity is notoriously “clumpy”, there will be peaks and valleys of activity continuously throughout the night. If you watch for a period shorter than 60 minutes, you may find yourself viewing in the middle of a slump of activity. Don’t bother trying to view these meteors prior to 10pm as the source of these meteors lies below the horizon until then.

You can help expand our knowledge of these meteors by recording the activity you see. The basic information would include your location, time of the session, type of meteor you see (SDA vs. Sporadic), your sky condition (usually expressed as limiting magnitude of the faintest star you can see), and any obstacles in your field of view expressed in percentage of obscuration. If you really feel motivated you can include the time of each meteor and its magnitude, color, and appearance of a persistent train. You can even try to identify some of the minor showers that are active at the same time as the SDA’s. You can send your results to me at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net or you can fill out an online visual meteor form at the International Meteor Organization.

If your skies happen to be cloudy on the night of July 28/29, don’t worry as the SDA’s produce good rates for several nights centered on July 29th. Good luck!

 
 

July 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 July 11-17, 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

 
 

July 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 July 4-10, 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

 
 

June 26, 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 June 27-July 3, 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

 
 

June 19, 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 June 20-26, 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

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