Oct 29/30/31 Meteors

Rates have fallen back to normal after the past 2 weeks of enhanced Orionid activity. Though the peak was about 10 nights ago and the Tucson system has picked up 430 Orionids, the best one appeared last night. What makes this meteor so impressive is its terminal burst (the flash of light at the end). This meteor was observed at 2:57 am over Tucson on the morning of Oct 31.

2:57 am on the morning of Oct 31, 2008.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI
TUS  2008-10-30  11h 23m  26  13  3   5   5
SDG  2008-10-30  10h 39m  66  40  3   10  13
TUS  2008-10-31  11h 24m  28  15  3   3   7

TUS – Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG – Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids

Oct 27/28/29 Meteors and a Colorado Fireball

The Orionids continue to slow down. Also both the Epsilon Geminids and the Leo Minorids are no longer active. Even with the decreased number of meteors, rates are still higher than in early October. In fact, the Tucson camera just broke the 1000th meteor mark for the month of October. This has been far and away the best month so far for that camera. This doesn’t mean there are more meteors visible in October than any other month. For one, the Tucson camera only started operations in March so there is no data for Nov, Dec, Jan and Feb. Also July and August have very high meteor rates but most of those months were clouded out by the monsoon.

There have been many reports of a bright fireball observed over Colorado early last evening. The fireball occurred on Oct 28 at 7:28:50 MDT. Thomas Ashcraft of northern New Mexico was not only able to see the meteor with his eyes he also was able to get images of it on his all-sky meteor camera. More on his observations can be found on his webpage at

http://www.heliotown.com/Fireballs_October_29_2008_Ashcraft.html

Thomas also looks for meteors by detecting the signal of distance TV and radio stations reflected off of a meteor’s ionized debris trail. Audio of the signals reflected off of last night’s fireball are also at the above site.

Chris Peterson is the operator of an all-sky meteor camera in Colorado. He also detected the fireball. A website dedicated to his observations and those of others in Colorado can be found at

http://www.cloudbait.com/science/fireball20081028.html

On this blog, SooYee left a comment describing the view from north of Denver, “Last night on 10/28 at 7:30PM (Mountains Time), I saw something very fast and bright flying across the sky (as I was facing South towards Denver, CO) from the East to West right below the Jupiter.”

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI
TUS  2008-10-28  11h 20m  36  14  1   2   19
SDG  2008-10-28  09h 00m  98  59  8   10  21
TUS  2008-10-29  11h 22m  35  22  1   3   9
SDG  2008-10-29  09h 52m  91  54  8   10  19

TUS – Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG – Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids

Oct 25/26 Meteors

Rates continue to fall as we moved further away from the peak of the Orionids. Bob notes that “overall rates took a tumble tonight, down approximately 25% from the previous nights. The falling rates for the Orionids can account for some of this but most of it lies with the variable sporadic counts”

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI EGE LMI
Carl 2008-10-26  10h 59m  43  11  2   5   22  1   2
Bob  2008-10-26  11h 07m  91  42  1   11  34  1   2

TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids
EGE – Epsilon Gemininds
LMI – Leo Minorids

Oct 24/25 Meteors

The Orionids are still producing a healthy number of meteors. The number of detections from Tucson actually went up when compared with the night before.

More than half of the Tucson (Carl’s camera) detection are Orionids. In San Diego (Bob’s camera), only ~1/3 of the detections are Orionids. Why the difference? On average the Orionids are brighter than Sporadic meteors. The Tucson camera can only see the brightest meteors so a higher percentage of what it sees are Orionids. The San Diego system can spot much fainter meteors, as a result it does a much better job of detecting the many more fainter Sporadics. Now that the Moon is no longer an issue, the San Diego system will be able to detect even more Sporadics.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI EGE LMI
Carl 2008-10-25  11h 16m  64  25  1   1   34  3   0
Bob  2008-10-25  10h 27m 121  62  8   2   44  3   2

TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids
EGE – Epsilon Gemininds
LMI – Leo Minorids

Below is a movie showing all 64 meteors detected by the Tucson system. See how many you can find. Many of the meteors are barely visible and only appear as short streaks. For reference, only the brightest stars are visible. When the video starts you can make out the Cygnus and Pegasus. By the end of the night, the constellations of Perseus, Auriga and Gemini are most evident.

All 64 meteors detected from the Tucson camera on the night of Oct 25 UT.

Oct 23/24 Meteors

According to my video results, the Orionids continue to wind down. Since the peak 4 nights ago my Orionids counts have dropped from 54 to 45 to 40 to 28. Interestingly, visual observations reported to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) did not show a decrease in Orionids rates from the previous night. For the past two nights visual observers reported a ZHR in the mid-20’s. Something similar happened last year (see the IMO’s 2007 ZHR graph). After a 2007 peak with a ZHR of 70, the Orionids continued to produce meteors at half the peak rate for the next couple of days. So maybe we’ll still be able to see elevated rates of Orionids this weekend.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI EGE LMI
Carl 2008-10-24  11h 14m  48  13  1   5   28  1   0
Bob  2008-10-24  10h 30m 123  42  3   8   65  2   3

TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids
EGE – Epsilon Gemininds
LMI – Leo Minorids

Oct 22/23 Meteors and the Decline of the Orionids

The Orionids are still going strong though rates have come down from Tuesday morning’s peak. In the past 3 nights, the number of Orionids detected with the Tucson camera has slowly declined from 54 to 45 to 40. Visual observations reported to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) also show a decline in the ZHR from ~40 to ~25. Rates should continue to decline as the Earth’s moves further away from the orbit of the Orionids.

Bob writes “The threat from fog is over as Santa Ana conditions now prevail. The camera is now pointed at the zenith as the threat of moonlight entering the field of view is over. Although the skies are excellent from home it took me 9 hours to match the totals I accumulated in a little under 2 hours the previous night. I don’t believe the rates are all that different plus the moonlight was worse the previous night!”

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI EGE LMI
Carl 2008-10-23  11h 09m  72  24  3   3   40  1   1
Bob  2008-10-23   9h 01m 130  45  1   4   74  1   5

TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids
EGE – Epsilon Gemininds
LMI – Leo Minorids

Oct 21/22 Meteors

Last night’s Tucson video data showed a slight decrease in the number of Orionids. The previous two nights saw 52 and 54 meteors, so last night’s 45 is a bit lower. According to all of the naked eye observations submitted to the International Meteor Organization, the peak occurred on Tuesday morning with a ZHR in the mid-40s.

Now that we are passed the peak in Orionid activity, is it too late to observe? Not at all. You still have tonight and perhaps tomorrow night to see a good number of meteors. Though rates will be lower, the Orionids will still produce a half-dozen or so meteors per hour from a semi-dark suburban site. Darker sites will see even more meteors. Remember, you will see no Orionids before 10pm, and it is best to observe after midnight.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI EGE LMI
Carl 2008-10-22  11h 10m  74  25  1   2   45  0   1
Bob  2008-10-22   1h 49m 138  27  4   5   80  20  2

TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids
EGE – Epsilon Gemininds
LMI – Leo Minorids

Oct 20/21 Meteors and the Peak of the Orionids?

Based on visual reports submitted to the International Meteor Organization, the Orionids may have reached their peak intensity. The Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) has been around ~35 for the past 2 nights. The ZHR is the number of meteors that would be seen per hour IF, and these are important IFs; 1) your sky is dark enough to see stars down to magnitude 6.5, 2) the radiant of the shower was directly overhead and 3) there are no obstructions in your field of view. Last year, the Orionids reached a ZHR of ~70. The Orionids only have another night or two to reach last year’s level. The Orionids normally reach a ZHR of ~20-30 so this year’s activity is still better than usual. The hope was that last year’s enhanced activity would occur again.

Both my video and naked eye observations are consistent with rates being nearly the same over the past 2 nights. Video detections were about the same, 54 last night versus 52 the night before. I spent an hour watching from my backyard. Under magnitude 4.7 skies, I counted 18 meteors in that hour with the following breakdown (18 TOT, 3 SPO, 3 NTA/STA, 11 ORI, 1 LMI). There was on big difference between this morning’s meteors and the previous morning. The Orionids were on average much brighter this morning. Of the 11, 5 were 0th magnitude or brighter (brighter than all but a very few of the brightest stars).

Bob says “Fog threatened observing from home, along the coast, so I drove 35 miles inland where the sky was beautifully clear both nights. I believe the excessive Epsilon Geminid rates are not real, but that the meteor recognition program has difficulty separating them from the Orionids.”

Bob’s camera in San Diego always sees more meteors than my Tucson camera because it is much more sensitive. This means it can see fainter meteors. His numbers from last night are amazing. If you compare them to his numbers from previous nights you can see just how many more meteors can be observed from a dark site.

The Orionids should produce the same level of activity, and maybe even more, tonight. The Moon is slowly becoming less of a problem as its phase decreases and it moves further from the Orionid radiant.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI EGE LMI
Carl 2008-10-21  10h 11m  74  13  2   2   54  2   1
Bob  2008-10-21   4h 05m 225  36  6   3  153 18   9

TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids
EGE – Epsilon Gemininds
LMI – Leo Minorids

Oct 17/18 Meteors

[Note: This was supposed to be posted 2 days ago. For some reason it wasn't. So here it is, if a bit late.]

This is the 8th month of operations for my Tucson camera system. Last night marked a personal record with 40 meteors detected. My previous record was 37 meteors on the night of July 28/29 during the peak of the Southern Delta Aquarid shower. For those wondering why I didn’t detect more meteors during the peak of the Perseids in mid-August, those nights were plagued by clouds.

Over in San Diego, Bob’s camera picked up twice as many Orionids. In fact, half of Bob’s detections are Orionids.

The number of Orionids should continue to be elevated for the next few days. According to the many visual observers, rates under the darkest skies have only reached a few Orionids per hour. With rates predicted to peak at a few tens of meteors per hour, we may see many more meteors in the nights ahead.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI TUM EGE
Carl 2008-10-18  11h 03m  40  18  2   4   15  0   1
Bob  2008-10-18  10h 54m  61  18  1   8   31  1   2

TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids
TUM – Tau Ursa Majorids
EGE – Epsilon Gemininds

Oct 19/20 Meteors and Visual Orionid Observations

I woke up early this morning and observed the Orionids the old-fashioned way, camping out in the backyard and counting meteors by eye. Between ~3:50 and 5:35 am local time, I counted 25 meteors including 18 ORI, 2 EGE and 5 SPO. My backyard is fairly dark for being located in a large city though no where near as dark as a rural locale. Stars down to a magnitude of 4.5 were seen. For a dark suburban site, my naked eye meteor counts give a good indication of what to expect. Darker sites will see more while the opposite is true for brighter sites.

Based on visual reports submitted to the International Meteor Organization, the Orionids are still increasing in intensity. The Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) reached a value of ~40 last night. The ZHR is the rate of meteors that would be seen per hour if, and these are important ifs; 1) your sky was dark enough to see stars down to magnitude 6.5, 2) the radiant of the shower was directly overhead and 3) no obstructions in your field of view. Last year, the Orionids reached a ZHR of ~70. If the same holds true this year, tonight may see twice as many meteors as last night.

Clouds ruined the observing in San Diego resulting in no meteor detections for Bob’s camera. Here in Tucson, the clouds threatened but, for the most part, stayed away. It was another personal record-breaking night with 80 total detections including 52 Orionids. With the shower predicted to peak either tonight or tomorrow night, perhaps my record will fall again.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO NTA STA ORI EGE LMI
Carl 2008-10-20  11h 06m  80  23  0   1   52  3   1
Bob  2008-10-20  Clouds

TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
NTA – Northern Taurids
STA – Southern Taurids
ORI – Orionids
EGE – Epsilon Gemininds
LMI – Leo Minorids

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