Lyrids Revisited – Apr 19/20/21/22

Bob Lunsford trekked out to the Mojave Desert to view last week’s Lyrid peak. From his notes:

“I made a 3 night camping trip to the Mojave Desert to view Lyrid activity. It was clear the first night but I lost the last two hours on the second night due to clouds. The third night was totally clear. The video camera ran between 1 and 5am PDT each morning. The dark skies allowed many more meteors than would have been captured from the San Diego area.”

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT LYR
MJD  2009-04-20  04h 00m  57  45  4   8
MJD  2009-04-21  02h 00m  23  11  5   7
MJD  2009-04-22  04h 00m  69  34  6   29

TUS – Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
MJD – Camera in the Mojave Desert operated by Bob Lunsford
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)
ANT – Antihelions
LYR – Lyrids

Apr 27/28/29/30 Meteors

Rates are starting to pick up a bit. Most of the month has seen meteor numbers in the single digits so it’s nice to see a few double digit night.

Many of the meteors from the past few nights have been bright and long-lasting. A few even showed evidence of fragmenting as small pieces were visible breaking off and falling behind the main body of the meteor.

The Eta Aquarids are still producing a very low rate of activity. This should change as we get closer to its May 5th maximum.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT ETA
TUS  2009-04-30  08h 50m  12  9   2   1
TUS  2009-04-29  08h 50m  11  10  1   0
TUS  2009-04-28  06h 56m  7   5   1   1

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)
ANT – Antihelions
ETA - Eta Aquarids

Tonight: Moon-Pleiades-Mercury Conjunction

This evening is your best chance to see the innermost planet Mercury. Since Mercury is located ~2/3rds of the way closer to the Sun than the Earth, it never travels very far from the Sun in our sky.

The Moon will also located just above Mercury this evening, April 26. Observers will need a clear view of the western horizon to see the event. This is because they will be located low in the sky. The image below shows what the scene will look like from North America. Note that the Pleiades open star cluster will be located between Mercury and the Moon. It will be a great sight via your eye or binoculars. In a telescope, Mercury will appear as a fat crescent with ~36% of its disk illuminated.

mercury_moon_apr26

Map of the Moon-Mercury-Pleiades conjunction on the evening of April 26. Map made with Stellarium.

Apr 22/23/24 Meteors

After peaking on Wednesday morning, the activity level of the Lyrids falls as rapidly as it rose. Now we look forward to the gradual rise of the Eta Aquarids.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT PPU LYR ETA
TUS  2009-04-24  07h 42m  9   6   2   0   1   0
TUS  2009-04-23  09h 10m  14  7   1   0   6   0

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)
ANT – Antihelions
PPU – Pi Puppids
LYR – Lyrids
ETA - Eta Aquarids

Apr 21/22 Meteors – The Peak of the Lyrids and a Cloud Occultation

Yesterday morning the sky showed a double feature, the Lyrid meteor shower and a lunar occultation of Venus. I was outside to see and hopefully get some pictures of both.

I’ve never seen a lunar occultation, or a planet or asteroid occultation for that matter. And I still haven’t seen one. All I saw were the clouds that occulted the Moon and Venus. About 15 minutes before Venus was set to disappear, the clouds rolled in. At least I got to see the awesome sight of a very close Venus and Moon as they rose over the horizon.

Bob Lunsford, on the other hand, got some great video of the disappearance and reappearance of Venus. I’ll try and post those videos in the next day or two.

Luckily it was clear enough to observe the Lyrids. I began my watch at 3 am. Right off the bat I observed a bright Lyrid. A minute later I saw an even brighter one. Within 15 minutes I counted 5 Lyrids and 1 Sporadic. So I’m think “this is pretty good, the Lyrids must be real active this year”. Then things ground to a halt. It was another 22 minutes till I spotted another meteor (a Sporadic) and 50! minutes till the next Lyrid rocketed into view.

Lulls in the action are common when watching meteor showers. Unfortunately, they make me question myself. Why am I out here? Am I too tired to see the meteors? Or am I just missing them? Luckily the meteors do come back and the last half hour of my observing saw 7 meteors. Whether the apparent non-random distribution of meteors is a statistical fluke or the result of clumpiness in the meteor stream is not know.

So after observing for 65 minutes (the same clouds that blocked my view of the occultation put an end to my Lyrid observing) I counted 14 meteors (7 LYR, 6 SPO and 1 ETA). Based on my observations and those of others (like my good friend Salvador Aguirre of Hermosillo), the IMO Live ZHR plot shows a peak Lyrid rate of 16 meteors per hour. This is typical for the Lyrids.

Though I only observed for an hour, my camera was running all night. It picked up 27 meteors, of which 13 were definitely Lyrids. A few of the 14 Sporadics were probably also Lyrids but not ID’d as such my the MetRec program. Last year my camera saw 16 Lyrids during with a bright Moon out so the Lyrids may have been more active last year. 27 meteors is the best single night for my camera system since the Quadrantid peak (107 meteors) on Jan 2/3.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT PPU LYR ETA
TUS  2009-04-22  08h 42m  27  14  0   0   13  0

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)
ANT – Antihelions
PPU – Pi Puppids
LYR – Lyrids
ETA - Eta Aquarids

Apr 20/21 Meteors

Last night was the night before the peak of the Lyrids. The past 4 nights have seen a nice increase in the number of detected Lyrids from 1 to 2 to 3 to 5. Remember that even though only 5 Lyrids all night seems like a low number, your eye will see many more than my camera. My system can only detect meteor down to magnitude 2. Most people, even those who live in the suburbs or small cities can see fainter than this. Even from my home within Tucson proper, I can see 4th magnitude stars. Each increase in magnitude results in 2.1 times as many Lyrids (what meteor scientists call the population index). So if I were to have been sitting outside all night watching the Lyrids, I would have seen over 20 Lyrids. With tonight’s peak, hopefully many more will be seen.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT PPU LYR ETA
TUS  2009-04-21  09h 40m  9   4   0   0   5   0

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)
ANT – Antihelions
PPU – Pi Puppids
LYR – Lyrids
ETA - Eta Aquarids

Apr 19/20 Meteors

Lyrid rates continue to crawl higher. If we use last year as a guide, tonight will see a few more Lyrids before the majority of the activity kicks in on Wednesday morning. According to the Live ZHR chart at the IMO, visual observers are seeing 2-4 Lyrids per hour from dark sites.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT PPU LYR ETA
TUS  2009-04-20  07h 45m  9   5   1   0   3   0

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)
ANT – Antihelions
PPU – Pi Puppids
LYR – Lyrids
ETA - Eta Aquarids

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 107 other followers