July 30/31 Meteors

Yet another great night of above average meteor totals. In Tucson the sky was better and as a result I was able to detect 61 meteors. The Southern Delta Aquariids continue to produce rates consistent with their peak. Surprisingly, the Perseids are putting on a good show even though we are 2 weeks from their max.

From Bob’s notes: “I observed another four hours this morning. The sky did not appear quite as dark as the previous night but there were no high clouds present tonight. Rates were down compared to last night, especially for the sporadic meteors.”

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT CAP SDA PAU PER
TUS  2009-07-31  06h 48m  61  24  4   4   14  1   14
SDG  2009-07-31  04h 00m 102  54  2   3   24  1   18

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
SPOSporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
CAP – Alpha Capricornids
SDA – Southern Delta Aquariids
PAU – Piscids Australids
PER – Perseids

July 29/30 Meteors

Rates were down last night. There are 2 possible reasons for this. One, we have passed the peak of the Southern Delta Aquariids and activity should slow for the rest of the week. Two, sky conditions in Tucson weren’t as good as the previous night as an influx of moisture made for some murky skies. It is likely that it was a combination of the 2.

Bob was able to take his meteor camera to a dark site allowing him to detect a lot more meteors than usual. From his notes: “I took the camera to dark skies and to get away from the low clouds that have been present along the coast for the past few nights. Alpine lies in the foothills of the Laguna Mountains some 25 miles east of San Diego. The low clouds acted like a blanket over the lights of San Diego and it was actually very dark. Activity was impressive both visually and through the camera. There were a few high clouds present at times, but not enough to spoil the display.”

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT CAP SDA PAU PER
TUS  2009-07-30  08h 26m  39  18  1   2   12  0   6
SDG  2009-07-30  04h 00m 130  74  5   2   30  1   18

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
SPOSporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
CAP – Alpha Capricornids
SDA – Southern Delta Aquariids
PAU – Piscids Australids
PER – Perseids

July 28/29 Meteors

Late July is usually a time of rain showers in southern Arizona. Instead, we have been witnessing showers of a different nature. The Southern Delta Aquariids and the Alpha Capricornids are currently at their peak level of activity. These 2 showers may be producing many of the recent meteors being observed by many of you (based on your comments).

It is surprising (to me at least) how many Perseids have been detected lately. This shower is one of the best and is known to be active for many weeks before its maximum. Still with maximum 2 weeks away, the current level of activity is very encouraging. Unfortunately, the Moon will a problem during the time of the Perseid peak. Still, moon or no moon, this is always a good shower to observe.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT CAP SDA PAU PER
TUS  2009-07-29  07h 48m  57  20  4   3   18  1   11

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
SPOSporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
CAP – Alpha Capricornids
SDA – Southern Delta Aquariids
PAU – Piscids Australids
PER – Perseids

There’s Alot Going On Up There

Except following an exceptional event, this blog usually only gets a comment or two every day. Over the past few days/nights, I’ve been swamped in comments. They all involve stuff being observed in the sky. Some I can’t explain. That doesn’t mean people saw UFOs or anything weird, just that I can’t pinpoint a possible explanation from the given description.

[Note: If you see something cool in the sky and want help in ID'ing it, at a minimum give the time you saw it (doesn't have to be exact) and your location (city or county is fine). If you could also describe where in the sky it was (high up, to the west, etc) that would be great too.]

Since I started this blog in early September of last year, I’ve received over 150,000 visitors and 1000+ comments. I’d like to thank everyone who visited an left a note.

Since July 23rd, 55 comments have been written. Rather than respond to each comment individually, I’ll try to identify as many things as I can.

Jupiter

First off, lots of people have been startled by a bright star that is visible in the southern sky. The star rises around 8pm in the southwest and is located due south and about 40-50 degrees up around midnight. Some have noted that it is brighter than any other star and doesn’t appear to twinkle like a star. That’s because it isn’t star but the planet Jupiter. Right now Jupiter is about as bright as it gets. It is about ~13 times brighter than the brightest star visible in the sky at the same time. Even though Jupiter just got hit by a comet a few days ago, its brightness is normal and, in fact, it gets this bright for a few months every year.

Midwest Fireball

Both this blog and the American Meteor Society’s Fireball page have received many reports of a bright fireball seen from Kansas to Kentucky at 12:15 am (give or take 10-15 minutes) on the morning of July 26. The fireball appears to have been as bright as the Full Moon and was observed to fragment. So far there have been no reports of any sonic booms associated with it. This fireball was slow and bright enough that it may have been large enough to have produced meteorites that survived to reach the ground.

July26_Midwest_fireball

Reported sightings of the July 26th (12:15am) fireball. Reports from the American Meteor Society and this blog. Map created with Google Earth.

Lots of Other Meteors

Right now we are witnessing the peak of a few minor showers. The best of which are the Southern Delta Aquariids and, to a lesser extent, the Alpha Capricornids. Meteors from these showers are observable for almost the entire night, except for an hour or 2 after sunset. They can be extremely bright and of almost any color though they will usually be blue or green. It is not uncommon for these meteors to leave faint trails that are observable for a few seconds after the meteor. Unlike the giant Midwest fireball talked about above, these meteors are relatively fast and only last for a second or two.

July 26/27/28 Meteors – Peak of the SDA, CAP and PAU showers

The monsoon finally took a break here in southern Arizona. For the first time in over a month, the night sky has been clear of all clouds and haze. The timing couldn’t have been better since this week marks the peak activity of a number of minor showers. The Alpha Capricornids and Piscids Australids are both capable of producing 1-5 meteors per hour from a dark site. The Southern Delta Aquariids are even better at 10-20 meteors per hours from a dark site.

The best meteor of the past 2 nights was this early evening Alpha Capricornid. The video below is playing at ~1/2 speed. Still this was a rather slow meteor which is common for Alpha Caps.

CAP

The high number of detected meteors confirms that activity was up. Even with lots of active showers, about half f the activity was from Sporadic meteors that are not members of any known shower. Of the active showers, the Southern Delta Aquariids lead the pack, as expected. The Alpha Capricornids come in a close second with the Perseids (still weeks from their peak) producing a healthy number as well.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT CAP SDA PAU PER
TUS  2009-07-28  08h 23m  34  20  1   3   8   0   1
TUS  2009-07-27  08h 21m  47  22  5   5   9   1   5

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
CAP – Alpha Capricornids
SDA – Southern Delta Aquariids
PAU – Piscids Australids
PER – Perseids

July 23/24/25/26 Meteors

Quickly trying to catch up with my meteor reports here. On these nights, clouds were still a problem in Tucson which continued to keep the number of detectable meteors low. As you’ll see in the next posting, the sky finally cleared in AZ.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT CAP SDA PAU PER
TUS  2009-07-26  06h 06m  16  6   1   2   2   1   4
TUS  2009-07-25  00h 58m  3   3   0   0   0   0   0
SDG  2009-07-25  05h 00m  21  13  2   4   1   0   1
TUS  2009-07-24  00h 30m  2   1   0   0   1   0   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
SPOSporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
CAP – Alpha Capricornids
SDA – Southern Delta Aquariids
PAU – Piscids Australids
PER – Perseids

Hubble Observes the Impact on Jupiter

The Hubble Space Telescope was used to take the sharpest images yet of the recent comet/asteroid impact on Jupiter. Hubble had been “offline” for engineering and calibration since it was upgraded by Shuttle astronauts back in May. Thanks to the quick work by the folks at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Hubble was able to available to observe this rare event.

HST_impact_closeup

Close-up Hubble Space Telescope image of Jupiter and its recent impact spot. Credit: NASA, ESA, H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.), and the Jupiter Impact Team.

HST_impact_wide

Hubble image of Jupiter showing its recent impact scar near the bottom of the image. Credit: NASA, ESA, H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.), and the Jupiter Impact Team.

Another image of the Jupiter Impact

Bob Lunsford has sent in another photo of Jupiter and its new impact spot. The photo was taken a few hours before the one shown in the More on the Jupiter Impact posting.

Bob writes: “Here is another picture taken at 7:54 UT on the 21st. The spot is just past the central meridian high in the southern latitudes. Also of interest is the white spot located just to the lower right. Although it looks like a processing artifact, it is real, as it appeared in allĀ  three pictures taken near that time.”

The image is upside down so the spot which is located near Jupiter’s south pole is actually located near the top of the planet in the image. It is by far the darkest cloud feature on Jupiter’s disk.

Lunsford_Jup_impact_Jul21

Jupiter and its dark impact spot as imaged by Bob Lunsford with his 9.25" SCT on 2009 July 21 at 07:54 UT. Image credit: Bob Lunsford.

July 22/23 Meteor

Both the Tucson and San Diego cameras had to deal with clouds last night. According to Bob: “Fog rolled in near 2am prematurely ending this session. There was also some altocumulus clouds earlier in the evening that may have also affected the rates.” Here in Tucson I was very surprised to even get a single meteor. Now if the sky would just clear for a night or two next week, we should have some nice results as the Southern Delta Aquariids, as well as the Alpha Capricornids and Piscids Australids, peak.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT CAP SDA PAU PER
TUS  2009-07-23  00h 30m  1   1   0   0   0   0   0
SDG  2009-07-23  05h 00m  12  6   0   3   2   0   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
SPOSporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
CAP – Alpha Capricornids
SDA – Southern Delta Aquariids
PAU – Piscids Australids
PER – Perseids

July 21/22 Meteors

Bob notes the following about this year’s Southern Delta Aquariids: “The lack of Delta Aquarids so far this year seem to validate the new activity period proposed for this shower (July 21 through Aug 30). Rates from this shower should now increase substantially, reaching maximum activity on Thursday July 30.”

Last night looked promising in Tucson with no thunderstorm activity and little in the way of clouds. I was disappointed that only 7 meteors were picked up. Though there were no T-storms in the Tucson area, a large complex of storms to the northwest pushed a gust front through the area last night. The high winds caused a dust storm that covered the Tucson area and made it difficult to observe much of anything last night.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT CAP SDA PAU PER
TUS  2009-07-22  03h 26m  7   5   1   0   1   0   0
SDG  2009-07-22  07h 00m  30  22  3   2   0   0   3

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
SPOSporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
CAP – Alpha Capricornids
SDA – Southern Delta Aquariids
PAU – Piscids Australids
PER – Perseids

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