Meteor Activity Outlook for October 29-November 4, 2011

The following is a slightly edited version of Bob Lunsford’s excellent weekly summary of meteor activity. The original version can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

As seen from the northern hemisphere, meteor rates continue to be strong in November. While no major activity is expected this month, the two Taurid radiants plus the Leonids keep the skies active. The addition of strong sporadic rates make November one of the better months to view meteor activity from north of the equator. Skies are fairly quiet as seen from the southern hemisphere this month. Activity from the three showers mentioned above may be seen from south of the equator, but the sporadic rates are much lower than those seen in the northern hemisphere.

During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Wednesday November 2nd. At this time the moon will lie ninety degrees east of the sun and will set near midnight local daylight time (LDT). This weekend the waxing crescent moon will set during the early evening hours and will not interfere with meteor observing during the more active morning hours. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near four as seen from the northern hemisphere and three as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near eighteen as seen from mid-northern latitudes and thirteen from mid-southern latitudes. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Evening rates are reduced this week due to moonlight.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning October 29/30. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The following showers are expected to be active this week:

The Northern Taurids (NTA) are active from a large radiant centered at 03:12 (048) +21, which lies in eastern Aries, very close to the position of the fourth magnitude star Delta Arietis. The radiant is best placed near 0200 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Northern Taurids strike the atmosphere at 29km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be near two per hour, no matter your location.

The center of the Southern Taurid (STA) radiant now lies 03:15 (049) +12. This position lies in southeastern Aries, eight degrees south of the fourth magnitude star Delta Arietis The radiant is best placed near the meridian at 0200 LDT, but activity may be seen all night long. Striking the atmosphere at 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor travels slowly through the skies. Rates should be near two per hour no matter your location.

A new radiant has been discovered in Taurus which is active during this period. The Eta Taurids (ETT) are active from October 24 through November 3, with maximum occurring on the 24th. The radiant position currently lies at 04:04 (061) +24, which lies in western Taurus, four degrees east of the famous Pleiades star cluster. The radiant is best placed near 0300 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Eta Taurids strike the atmosphere at 47km/sec., which would produce meteors of average velocity. Expected rates would be less than one per hour, no matter your location.

The Orionids (ORI) have now passed maximum and hourly rates are now falling with each passing night. Rates are expected to be less than five per hour this week. The radiant is currently located at 06:49 (102) +16. This position lies in southern Gemini, two degrees southeast of the second magnitude star Alhena (Gamma Geminorum). The radiant is best placed near 0500 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. At 67km/sec., the average Orionid is swift.

Recent studies by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel have revealed a radiant in Canis Minor that is active this time of year. Old radiant positions placed it within the borders of Cancer. The Beta Cancrids (BCN) are active from October 25 through November 3, with maximum occurring on the 27th. The radiant position currently lies at 07:32 (113) -03, which lies in central Canis Minor, five degrees south of the brilliant zero magnitude star Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris. The radiant is best placed near 0600 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Beta Cancrids strike the atmosphere at 65km/sec., which would produce meteors of swift velocity. Expected rates would be less than one per hour, no matter your location.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately ten sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near three per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near five per hour as seen from rural observing sites and two per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Shower Name                 RA     DEC   Vel     Rates
                                         km/s   NH    SH
NTA Northern Taurids      03h 12m  +21    29     2     2
STA Southern Taurids      03h 15m  +12    27     2     2 
ETT Eta Taurids           04h 04m  +24    47    <1    <1 
ORI Orionids              06h 49m  +16    61     3     3
BCN Beta Cancrids         07h 32m  -03    65    <1    <1

RA - Right Ascension
DEC - Declination
Vel - Velocity relative to Earth (in km per sec)
Rates - Rate of visible meteors per hour from a dark site
NH - Northern Hemisphere
SH - Southern Hemisphere

Oct 17-24 Meteors

The past week witnessed the annual peak of the Orionid meteor shower. The Orionids are the result of dust created by Comet Halley over 2000-3000 years ago. Visual observers recorded peak ZHRs of only 20-25 meteors per hour. This is less than the peak from the last three years with rates of 30-50 per hour and a huge step down from 2007 when rates as high as 70 per hour were seen.

Unfortunately I missed most of the shower. For three nights was observing some of the objects that create meteor showers rather than the shower itself. The plan was to leave my meteor camera in auto mode but things didn’t work out that way. As a result my system missed three nights of the Orionid peak. I’ll have to figure out how to prevent this in the future.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO NTA STA ORI TUM EGE LMI
TUS  2011-10-24   10h 41m   66  21  2   3   38  -   2   0
TUS  2011-10-23   10h 05m   66  17  2   3   43  -   0   1
TUS  2011-10-22   10h 07m   76  18  4   3   48  -   1   2
TUS  2011-10-21   00h 00m   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -
TUS  2011-10-20   00h 00m   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -
TUS  2011-10-19   00h 00m   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -
TUS  2011-10-18   10h 07m   48  18  2   5   20  1   2   -
TUS  2011-10-17   09h 52m   29  16  3   1   7   0   2   -

SAL3 - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
ALLS - Near all-sky camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIST - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VISH - Visual observations from Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
HERM - PARENI camera in Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
Time - 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 Geminids
LMI - Leo Minorids

Meteor Activity Outlook for October 12-28, 2011

Sorry, I’m a few days late posting this…

The following is a slightly edited version of Bob Lunsford’s excellent weekly summary of meteor activity. The original version can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active most of the month along with many minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are the big story of the month reaching maximum activity on the 22nd. This display can be seen equally well from both hemispheres which definitely helps out observers located in the sporadic-poor southern hemisphere this time of year.

During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Wednesday October 26th. At this time the moon will lie near the sun and will be invisible at night. This weekend the waning crescent moon will rise during the late morning hours and will not interfere with meteor observing. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near four as seen from the northern hemisphere and three as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near thirty three as seen from mid-northern latitudes and twenty eight from mid-southern latitudes. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning October 22/23. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The following showers are expected to be active this week:

A new radiant has been discovered by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel in Draco which is active during this period. The October Ursa Minorids (OUI) are active from October 16-28, with maximum occurring on the 24th. The current radiant position lies at 18:18 (275) +75. This position lies in eastern Draco two degrees north of the faint star Chi Draconis. Older radiant positions were a bit further west in Ursa Minor.  The radiant is best placed just as soon as it becomes dark, when it lies highest in a dark sky. Meteors from the October Ursa Minorids strike the atmosphere at 28km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be less than one per hour, as seen from the northern hemisphere. Activity from this shower is not visible in the southern hemisphere due to the high northerly location of the radiant.

The Northern Taurids (NTA) are now active from a large radiant centered at 02:48 (042) +20, which lies in central Aries, six degrees west of the fourth magnitude star Delta Arietis. The radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight time (LDT), when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Northern Taurids strike the atmosphere at 29km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be near two per hour, no matter your location.

The center of the Southern Taurid (STA) radiant now lies 02:51 (043) +11. This position lies on the Aries/Cetus border, three degrees east of the fourth magnitude star Mu Ceti. The radiant is best placed near the meridian at 0200 LDT, but activity may be seen all night long. Striking the atmosphere at 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor travels slowly through the skies. Rates should be near two per hour no matter your location.

A new radiant has been discovered in Taurus which is active during this period. The Eta Taurids (ETT) are active from October 24 through November 3, with maximum occurring on the 24th. At maximum, the  radiant position lies at 03:42 (056) +24, which lies in western Taurus in the area of sky occupied by the famous Pleiades star cluster. The radiant is best placed near 0300 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Eta Taurids strike the atmosphere at 47km/sec., which would produce meteors of average velocity. Expected rates would be less than one per hour, no matter your location.

The Orionids (ORI) reach maximum activity on morning of October 22nd. Rates are expected to peak between 10-20 shower members per hour on that morning. Moonlight from the waning crescent moon will reduce activity slightly. The radiant is currently located at 06:28 (97) +16. This position lies in western Gemini, close to the second magnitude star Alhena (Gamma Geminorum). The radiant is best placed near 0500 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. At 67km/sec., the average Orionid is swift.

The Epsilon Geminids (EGE) are active from October 16th through the 27th. Maximum activity occurred on the 19th. The radiant is currently located at 07:02 (105) +27. This position lies in central Gemini, three degrees northeast of the third magnitude star Epsilon Geminorum. This position is also close to the Orionid radiant so care must taken for correct shower association, especially since they have similar velocities. The Orionids will be more numerous. Current rates are near one per hour. The radiant is best placed near 0600 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. At 70km/sec., the average Epsilon Geminid is swift.

Recent studies by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel have revealed a radiant in Canis Minor that is active this time of year. Old radiant positions placed it within the borders of Cancer. The Beta Cancrids (BCN) are active from October 25 through November 3, with maximum occurring on the 27th. The radiant position at maximum lies at 07:22 (111) -06, which lies in southwestern Canis Minor, three degrees west of the brilliant zero magnitude star Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris. The radiant is best placed near 0600 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon.Meteors from the Beta Cancrids strike the atmosphere at 65km/sec., which would produce meteors of swift velocity. Expected rates would be less than one per hour, no matter your location.

The Leonis Minorids (LMI) are active from October 16-27 with maximum activity occurring on October 23rd. ZHR’s are usually low but the radiant is far removed from the Orionids and Epsilon Geminids so that any possible shower members should be easily identified. Hourly rates should be near one this weekend. This radiant is currently located at 10:43 (161) +36, which places it in northeastern Leo Minor, two degrees east of the fourth magnitude star Beta Leonis Minoris . The radiant is best placed just before dawn when it lies highest in a dark sky. This shower is better situated for observers situated in the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises far higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. At 60km/sec., the average Leonis Minorid is swift.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately ten sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near three per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near five per hour as seen from rural observing sites and two per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Shower Name                 RA     DEC   Vel     Rates
                                         km/s   NH    SH
OUI Oct Ursa Minorids     18h 18m  +75    28    <1    <1
NTA Northern Taurids      02h 48m  +20    29     2     2
STA Southern Taurids      02h 51m  +11    27     2     2 
ETT Eta Taurids           03h 42m  +24    47    <1    <1 
ORI Orionids              06h 28m  +16    61    15    15
EGE Epsilon Geminids      07h 02m  +27    70     1     1
BCN Beta Cancrids         07h 22m  -06    65    <1    <1
LMI Leo Minorids          10h 43m  +36    60     2     2

RA - Right Ascension
DEC - Declination
Vel - Velocity relative to Earth (in km per sec)
Rates - Rate of visible meteors per hour from a dark site
NH - Northern Hemisphere
SH - Southern Hemisphere

Oct 10-16 Meteors

The big story of the past week is the gradual increase in rates of the Orionids (ORI). With its peak predicted for the 21st, rates should really jump over the next night or two. Unlike most major showers which experience peak rates over the course of a night or two, the Orionids can stay near peak strength for 4-5 nights.

Below are the best video meteors of the past week.

Nice Southern Taurid (STA) shooting to the north on 2011 Oct 10 @ 10:05 UT.

Sporadic (SPO) from 2011 Oct 10 @ 10:57 UT.

Another Sporadic (SPO) from 2011 Oct 14 @ 03:41 UT.

Northern Taurid (NTA) from 2011 Oct 14 @ 05:51 UT.

Sporadic (SPO) on 2011 Oct 16 @ 07:10 UT.

Early Orionid (ORI) from 2011 Oct 16 @ 08:08 UT.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO NTA STA ORI DAU GIA EPC TUM EGE
TUS  2011-10-16   09h 24m   41  17  1   8  10   -   -   -   3   2
TUS  2011-10-15   10h 57m   19  10  0   3   4   -   -   -   1   1
TUS  2011-10-14   10h 55m   24  16  3   1   4   -   -   -   0   0
TUS  2011-10-13   08h 13m   30  16  3   3   5   -   -   -   0   -
TUS  2011-10-12   10h 00m   34  25  1   5   3   -   -   0   0   -
TUS  2011-10-11   09h 58m   28  21  2   2   3   -   -   0   -   -
TUS  2011-10-10   10h 12m   31  21  2   4   1   3   0   0   -   -

SAL3 - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
ALLS - Near all-sky camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIST - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VISH - Visual observations from Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
HERM - PARENI camera in Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
Time - 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
DAU - Delta Aurigids 
GIA - Draconids 
EPC - October Eta Piscids 
TUM - Tau Ursa Majorids 
EGE - Epsilon Geminids

Meteor Activity Outlook for October 15-21, 2011

The following is a slightly edited version of Bob Lunsford’s excellent weekly summary of meteor activity. The original version can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active most of the month along with many minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are the big story of the month reaching maximum activity on the 22nd. This display can be seen equally well from both hemispheres which definitely helps out observers located in the sporadic-poor southern hemisphere this time of year.

During this period the moon reaches its last quarter phase on Thursday October 20th. At this time the moon will lie ninety degrees west of the sun and will rise near midnight local daylight time (LDT). This weekend the waning gibbous moon will rise during the early evening hours and will effectively ruin the late evening and early morning hours with intense moonlight. One could watch for meteors during the early evening hours between dusk and moonrise. Unfortunately at this time of night activity will be low. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near two as seen from the northern hemisphere and one as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near eight as seen from mid-northern latitudes and six from mid-southern latitudes. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Rates are reduced during this period due to the intense moonlight.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning October 15/16. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

Detailed descriptions of each shower will continue when the moonlight situation improves.The following showers are expected to be active this week:

Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Shower Name                 RA     DEC   Vel     Rates
                                         km/s   NH    SH
STA Southern Taurids      02h 27m  +10    27     1     1 
SSA Sigma Arietids        03h 10m  +22    46    <1    <1
ZTA Zeta Taurids          05h 19m  +12    67    <1    <1
ORI Orionids              06h 06m  +16    61     2     2
OCU October Ursa Majorids 09h 42m  +63    53    <1    <1

RA - Right Ascension
DEC - Declination
Vel - Velocity relative to Earth (in km per sec)
Rates - Rate of visible meteors per hour from a dark site
NH - Northern Hemisphere
SH - Southern Hemisphere

Oct 1 – 9 Meteors

During the night of October 8 UT the Draconids produced an outburst of activity for observers on the eastern side of the Atlantic. Based on visual reports, the IMO’s live ZHR chart showed a peak ZHR of between 300 and 400 meteor per hour. The bright Moon and preponderance of faint Draconids meant the actual observed rates were much lower.

Here in AZ the show was over by the time night fell. In fact, not a single Draconid was seen by my camera system only hours after the outburst. Except for a single meteor observed the night before the outburst, this year’s Draconids were their usual meager self for me.

With the Draconids past us, we are now looking forward to the Orionids which should peak on the 21st. Already a few Orionids have been seen each night since the 4th.

Bright (-3mag) SPO on 2011 Oct 6 @ 06:17 UT.

NTA meteor on 2011 Oct 6 @ 10:56 UT.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO NTA STA ORI DAU OCA GIA EPC
TUS  2011-10-09   10h 46m   38  27  0   4   4   3   0   0   0
TUS  2011-10-08   09h 03m   28  18  3   5   1   0   0   1   0
TUS  2011-10-07   03h 01m   18  14  1   1   2   0   0   0   -
TUS  2011-10-06   06h 48m   20  14  2   0   2   1   1   -   -
TUS  2011-10-05   07h 10m   26  15  1   6   3   1   -   -   -
TUS  2011-10-04   02h 34m   8   7   0   0   1   0   -   -   -
TUS  2011-10-03   08h 18m   22  17  1   2   0   2   -   -   -

SAL3 - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
ALLS - Near all-sky camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIST - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VISH - Visual observations from Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
HERM - PARENI camera in Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
Time - 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
NTA - Northern Taurids 
STA - Southern Taurids 
ORI - Orionids
DAU - Delta Aurigids 
OCA - October Camelopardalids 
GIA - Draconids 
EPC - October Eta Piscids

Sep 18 – 31 Meteors

It has been a long time since I posted my nightly video meteor results. Part of the problem was our annual monsoon season here in Tucson. But the main problem was a series of mechanical and software issues that I just didn’t have the time to solve until a few weeks ago.

The 2011 monsoon was very similar to last years ‘nonsoon’. Though every night saw lots of clouds and rain threatened, little rain actually fell. That wouldn’t have been too much of a problem for my video set-up except for the fact that my ‘all-weather’ camera enclosure is no longer ‘all-weather’. So I decided to leave my camera off on those nights when it looked like it might rain. Since I was going to be down for weather reasons anyway I went ahead and upgraded to the latest version of the automatic meteor detection software, MetRec. That didn’t go so well and resulted in finally upgrading from an old PIII computer to a Pentium 4 machine. Now, knock on wood, everything seems to be working.

September is a month of high meteor rates. Sporadic meteors rates are near their annual peak. Though no major showers are active, a number of minor showers are consistent contributors to the high rates. Below are a collection of some of the best meteors from the last two weeks of September.

Long-lasting (~3.5+ sec) SPO seen on 2011 Sep 18 @ 05:47 UT.

Bright (~-2 mag) SPO on 2011 Sep 22 @ 06:58 UT.

Another SPO from 2011 Sep 23 (08:17 UT).

A third SPO from 2011 Sep 23 (10:00 UT).

Almost 2 sec in duration SPO on 2011 Sep 25 @ 06:07 UT.

Nu Eridanid fireball (~-4 to -5 mag) on 2011 Sep 26 @ 08:33 UT.

SPO racing north out of Auriga on 2011 Sep 26 @ 12:07 UT.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT NTA STA NUE SPE DAU
TUS  2011-09-31   10h 17m   37  25  -   2   7   -   -   3
TUS  2011-09-30   07h 34m   33  26  -   4   2   -   -   1
TUS  2011-09-29   09h 44m   36  29  -   2   3   -   -   2
SDG  2011-09-27   04h 21m   28  27  1   -   0   -   -   -
TUS  2011-09-25   05h 49m   25  22  1   -   -   2   -   0
TUS  2011-09-24   09h 29m   38  28  5   -   -   4   -   1
TUS  2011-09-23   09h 39m   35  32  1   -   -   1   -   1
TUS  2011-09-22   08h 25m   33  24  3   -   -   6   -   0
TUS  2011-09-21   08h 54m   30  25  0   -   -   1   -   4
TUS  2011-09-20   10h 06m   30  25  1   -   -   1   -   3
TUS  2011-09-19   09h 41m   25  20  3   -   -   1   1   -
TUS  2011-09-18   09h 38m   39  34  3   -   -   2   0   -

SAL3 - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
ALLS - Near all-sky camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIST - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VISH - Visual observations from Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
HERM - PARENI camera in Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
Time - 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
NTA - Northern Taurids 
STA - Southern Taurids NUE - Nu Eridanids 
SPE - September Perseids 
DAU - Delta Aurigids

Meteor Activity Outlook for October 8-14, 2011

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning October 8/9. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.The following is a slightly edited version of Bob Lunsford’s excellent weekly summary of meteor activity. The original version can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active most of the month along with many minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are the big story of the month reaching maximum activity on the 22nd. This display can be seen equally well from both hemispheres which definitely helps out observers located in the sporadic-poor southern hemisphere this time of year.

During this period the moon reaches its full phase on Wednesday October 12th. At this time the moon will lie opposite of the sun and will be in the sky all night long. This weekend the waxing gibbous moon will set during the early morning hours and will allow a couple of hours of meteor observing in dark skies before morning twilight. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near two as seen from the northern hemisphere and one as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near six as seen from mid-northern latitudes and four from mid-southern latitudes. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Rates are reduced during this period due to the intense moonlight.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning October 8/9. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

Detailed descriptions of each shower will continue when the moonlight situation improves.The following showers are expected to be active this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Shower Name                 RA     DEC   Vel     Rates
                                         km/s   NH    SH
GIA Draconids             17h 28m  +54    20    <1    <1
STA Southern Taurids      02h 04m  +09    27     1     1
ORI Orionids              05h 44m  +16    67     1     1
OCT Oct. Camelopardalids  10h 48m  +79    45    <1    <1

RA - Right Ascension
DEC - Declination
Vel - Velocity relative to Earth (in km per sec)
Rates - Rate of visible meteors per hour from a dark site
NH - Northern Hemisphere
SH - Southern Hemisphere

2011 October Monthly Highlights

This feature highlights a number of meteor showers, comets and asteroids which are visible during the month of October 2011.

October 2011 Highlights
* Draconid meteor shower may produce high rates over Europe and Asia on the 8th
* Jupiter is at opposition on the 28th
* Comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd) is a nice binocular object during the evening
* Orionid meteor shower peaks on the 21st

Note: If anyone has pictures or observations of these objects/events and want to share them with my readers, send them to the Transient Sky at <transientsky1@yahoo.com>.

Planets

Evening Planets

Mercury - Mercury spends the later half of the month in a poor evening apparition. Usually such a poor apparition wouldn't be worth observing but this month Venus can be used to find Mercury. Use the Moon to find low but brilliant (magnitude -3.9) Venus and even lower and fainter (magnitude -0.3) Mercury on the evenings of October 27 and 28.

Venus - After spending the past month or so too close to the Sun to be observed, Venus is now starting its slow crawl into the evening sky. Its elongation from the Sun grows from 13° to 20° in October. Still you will need a clear view of horizon to catch Venus low in the WSW during early twilight. Use the Moon to find low but brilliant (magnitude -3.9) Venus and even lower and  fainter (magnitude -0.3) Mercury on the evenings of October 27 and 28.

Jupiter -  The King of Planets is the King of the Night Sky this month. With the other 4 naked eye planets hugging the twilight horizon or rather faint, Jupiter is by far the brightest and best placed. Rising a little over an hour after sunset on the 1st and right at sunset on the 31st, it is at its best around midnight. Opposition occurs on October 28 when Jupiter will peak in brightness at a magnitude of -2.9. For the entire month it will be slowly retrograding in the constellation of Aries. Not that you'll need the Moon to find Jupiter but the two will make a nice pair on the nights of the 12th and 13th.

Morning Planets

Mars - With opposition in March 2012, Mars continues to slowly brighten (magnitude +1.3 to +1.1) as it moved from Cancer into Leo this month. Mars rises after midnight and is best just before dawn. If you are out watching the Orionids, Mars will be the bright ruddy star near the Moon on the mornings of the 19th and 20th.

Saturn - Saturn passes conjunction on the far side of the Sun at mid-month (Oct 13). Those with very clear eastern horizons may be able to see Saturn an hour before sunrise by the end of the month. Saturn (magnitude +0.7) will be located ~5° to the lower right of the slightly fainter star Spica (magnitude +1.0).

Meteors

Meteor activity is still near a seasonal high in October. The year is usually split in 2 with January through June having low rates with few major showers while July through December have high rates with many major showers.

Sporadic Meteors

Sporadic meteors are not part of any known meteor shower. They represent the background flux of meteors. Except for the few days per year when a major shower is active, most meteors that are observed are Sporadics. This is especially true for meteors observed during the evening. During October mornings, 10 or so Sporadic meteors can be observed per hour from a dark moonless sky. The Taurids should also contribute another 2-5 meteors per hour all night long.

Major Meteor Showers

Draconids (Giacobinids) (GIA) [Max Date = Oct 8, Max ZHR = highly uncertain between 50 and 600 per hour]

On October 8th at ~20 hours UT, the Draconid meteor shower may produce an outburst of meteors for observers in Europe and Asia. While normally a weak shower, the Draconids put on two of history's best meteor storms in 1933 and 1946. In those years rates as high as 10,000 per hour were seen. More recently an outburst in 1998 produced a few hundred meteors per hour. This year the Earth will cross dust trails produced by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner in 1900 and 1907, the same two trails that produced the 1933 and 1946 storms, as well as older trails back to 1866. Due to the older age and dispersion of these streams, a major storm is not possible this year. Still ZHRs as high as a few hundred per hour may be possible. The actual number of meteors seen by observers will be much less due to the nearly Full Moon. As a result, the shower may "only" appear as good as the Perseids or Geminids at their peak under a Moon-less sky.

If you're like me and live in North America, well, we are probably out of luck. Chances are we will see little or no enhancement from the dust trail crossings. This will probably only be a good show for those in Europe, Asia and northern Africa. A map of visibility and much more information on this year's shower cab be found at the International Meteor Organization's (IMO) 2011 Draconids site.

Orionids (ORI) [Max Date = Oct 21, Max ZHR = ~35-45 per hour]

The Orionids are one of the most reliable and productive showers of the year. Another point in their favor is their high level of activity over the course of ~5 nights or so. This gives ample opportunity to catch a few Orionid meteors. This year the just past Third Quarter Moon will hamper meteor watching somewhat.

The meteors that make up the Orionid shower were originally released by the one comet everyone has heard of, Comet Halley. Computer simulations of the past movements of Halley and its dust suggest that many of this year’s Orionid meteors were released by Halley between 1265 BC and 910 BC (for some points of reference, the Trojan War took place around 1200 BC and King David ruled around 1000 BC).

The Orionids are usually active from Oct 3 to Nov 11 with a broad peak between Oct 18 and 24. During their peak, rates can be as high as 20-70 meteors per hour. During the last two years ZHRs reached 35-45 meteors per hour which is nearly half the rate observed in 2007 (70 per hour). This year's activity should be similar to the last few years. With a Moon-lit sky, actual rates will be somewhat lower.

The Orionids appear to come from an area in northern Orion. This area, called the radiant, rises around 10pm local time. It is best to wait till the radiant is high in the sky before looking for meteors (say 1am). The radiant is highest around 3:30am which is the best time to look. As you can see on the sky chart, the Moon is almost on top of the radiant. Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky so you don’t have to look at the radiant.

Minor Meteor Showers

Minor showers produce so few meteors that they are hard to notice above the background of regular meteors. Info on many minor showers are provided on a weekly basis by Robert Lunsford's Meteor Activity Outlook.

Additional information on these showers and other minor showers not included here can be found at the International Meteor Organization's 2011 Meteor Shower Calendar.

Comets

Naked Eye Comets (V < 6.0)

None this month...

Binocular Comets (V = 6.0 - 8.0)

C/2009 P1 (Garradd)

The brightest comet of the year is long-period comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd). First seen way back on August 13, 2009 by Gordon Garradd who was observing for the Siding Spring Survey, a NASA-funded survey observing from Australia. At the time of discovery it was located at a distance 8.7 AU from the Sun, nearly the distance of Saturn. Perihelion will occur 2 days before Christmas 2011 at 1.55 AU from the Sun. Though the comet does not get very close to the Sun, it is an intrinsically bright comet and is already a borderline naked eye object for observers at very dark sites (6th magnitude).

The comet starts the month at a distance of 1.92 AU from the Sun and 1.70 AU from Earth. At mid-month it is 1.81 AU from the Sun and 1.87 AU from Earth and by month's end it will be 1.72 and 2.01 AU from the Sun and Earth, respectively.  Visual observers are placing the comet at magnitude 6.6 to 6.8 at the end of September. It should slightly brighten this month as it slowly moves west in Hercules.

Date       RA       DEC     Delta    r    Elong   Mag
Oct 1    18h 09m  +19°23'   1.697  1.921    87    6.7
Oct 16   17h 49m  +18°51'   1.866  1.811    71    6.6
Oct 31   17h 37m  +18°44'   2.005  1.716    59    6.6

Small Telescope Comets (V = 8.0 - 10.0)

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova

First seen in 1948 by Japanese amateur Minora Honda, Czech astronomer Antonin Mrkos and Slovak astronomer Ludmilla Pajdusakova, this comet is on its 11th observed return since discovery (it was missed during the 1959 and 1985 returns). It is an intrinsically faint Jupiter-family comet which passes within 0.53 AU of the Sun every 5.25 years. This time perihelion passage occurred on September 28. Prior to perihelion the comet made a close approach to within 0.06 AU of Earth which was only easily visible from the Southern Hemisphere. During the next return in 2016/2017, 45P will pass within 0.08 AU of Earth on its outbound leg and will be much better placed for northern observers.

Being after perihelion, the comet will rapidly fade as it moves away from the Sun and Earth as it moves through the constellation of Leo. At the start of the month, it should still be a binocular comet at magnitude 7.6 but will be lost to binoculars within a week or so. At an elongation of 32-37° it can only be seen low on the horizon before dawn.

Date       RA       DEC     Delta    r    Elong   Mag
Oct 1    10h 26m  +08°27'   0.827  0.532    32    7.6
Oct 16   11h 17m  +05°26'   1.139  0.641    34    9.9
Oct 31   12h 03m  +01°40'   1.380  0.839    37   12.7

 

 

Meteor Activity Outlook for October 1-7, 2011

The following is a slightly edited version of Bob Lunsford’s excellent weekly summary of meteor activity. The original version can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active most of the month along with many minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are the big story of the month reaching maximum activity on the 22nd. This display can be seen equally well from both hemispheres which definitely helps out observers located in the sporadic-poor southern hemisphere this time of year.

During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Tuesday October 4th. At this time the half illuminated moon will lie ninety degrees east of  the sun and will set near midnight local daylight time (LDT). This weekend the waxing crescent moon will set during the early evening hours and will not interfere with meteor observing. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near four as seen from the northern hemisphere and three as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near twelve as seen from mid-northern latitudes and seven from mid-southern latitudes. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning October 1/2. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The following showers are expected to be active this week:

The Draconids (GIA) (also known as the Giacobinids) reach maximum activity on October 8. This year a possible outburst is predicted to be visible from Asia, Africa, and Europe. Lesser activity may be seen on the 6th and 7th and the 9th and 10th. The nearly full moon this time of month will severely hamper observations. Detailed articles are available on the websites of the International Meteor Organization (http://www.imo.net/draconids2011) and the American Meteor Society (http://www.amsmeteors.org/2011/09/possible-draconid-outburst-in-2011/). The radiant is located at 17:28 (262) +54, which places it in southern Draco, two degrees northwest of the third magnitude star Rastaban (Beta Draconis). This star is one of the four that form the prominent head of Draco, also known as the “Lozenge”. Due to the extreme northern declination, this shower is only visible from the southern tropics northward. The radiant is best placed just as it becomes dark during the evening hours. At 20km/sec., the average Draconid is extremely slow.

The Southern Taurid (STA) radiant is now centered at 01:40 (025) +07. This area of the sky lies in southeastern Pisces, two degrees southwest of the fourth magnitude star Omicron Piscium. This radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight time (LDT), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near two per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 27 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor would be of medium-slow speed. While looking at this area of the sky, notice how bright the variable star Mira (Omicron Ceti) is these nights. It normally is too dim to be seen with the naked eye but now stands at second magnitude, nearly the brightest star in the constellation of Cetus the whale. It lies approximately ten degrees southeast from the center of the STA radiant or just six degrees southeast of the fourth magnitude star Al Rischa (Alpha Piscium). It is probably near peak magnitude and will soon begin fading.

A new shower of bright meteors radiating from near the Draco/Camelopardalis border was discovered in 2005 and has repeated itself in most years since. The October Camelopardalids (OCT) are active on only two nights but shower members are bright and should be easy to observe. The 2011 display is predicted to occur on October 5th and 6th. The estimated position of the radiant on the 5th is 10:48 (162) +79. The nearest easy star to identify the radiant is 4th magnitude SAO1551. This area of the sky is circumpolar from nearly the entire northern hemisphere. The radiant lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky at both dusk and at dawn. Due to this unusual situation this shower would be totally invisible from the southern hemisphere. With an entry velocity of 45km/sec., most members of the October Camelopardalids would be of medium-swift velocity.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately ten sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near two per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near five per hour as seen from rural observing sites and one per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Shower Name                 RA     DEC   Vel     Rates
                                         km/s   NH    SH
GIA Draconids             17h 28m  +54    20    <1    <1
STA Southern Taurids      01h 40m  +07    27     2     2
OCT Oct. Camelopardalids  10h 48m  +79    45    <1    <1

RA - Right Ascension
DEC - Declination
Vel - Velocity relative to Earth (in km per sec)
Rates - Rate of visible meteors per hour from a dark site
NH - Northern Hemisphere
SH - Southern Hemisphere
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