Early June Meteors

The first week of June continued the level of activity from the end of May. I didn’t collect any data between the nights of June 7 and 15 as I was on vacation with my family. Results after June 16 will be presented in a future post.

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Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT SOP CAM NSC JMC NSA ARI
SAL  2014-06-06   08h 29m   15  10  2   3   -   -   -   -   0
SAL  2014-06-05   07h 51m   12  9   2   1   -   -   0   0   0
SAL  2014-06-04   08h 31m   13  12  1   0   -   -   0   0   -
SAL  2014-06-03   08h 29m   17  11  2   1   -   1   1   1   -
SAL  2014-06-02   08h 18m   11  8   1   2   -   0   0   0   -
SAL  2014-06-01   08h 09m   11  11  0   0   0   0   0   -   -

SAL - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIS - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
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
ETA - Eta Aquariids
SOP - Southern May Ophiuchids
CAM - Camelopardalids
NSC - Northern Omega Scorpiids
JMC - June Mu Cassiopeiids
NSA - Northern Mu Sagittarids
ARI - Arietids

Late May Meteors

The story of the last week or so of May was the Camelopardalids (CAM). As mentioned in my last two posts, the CAMs had the potential to produce a very nice visual meteor display. Unfortunately, rates were much lower than expected and visual observers only counted a handful per hour on the peak night of May 23/24.

My video camera only picked up 4 CAMs on the peak night showing just how much of a let down the CAMs were. Other than the CAMs, the only other shower that showed much activity was the Southern May Ophiuchids (SOP).

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Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT ETA SOP CCA CAM NSC JMC
SAL  2014-05-31   07h 17m   11  10  0   -   1   -   0   0   0
SAL  2014-05-30   08h 26m   13  13  0   -   0   -   0   0   0
SAL  2014-05-29   00m 00m         --- BAD WEATHER --- 
SAL  2014-05-28   06h 33m   12  10  2   0   0   -   0   0   -
SAL  2014-05-27   08h 28m   10  5   2   0   2   -   1   0   -
SAL  2014-05-26   07h 45m   10  8   1   0   1   -   0   -   -
SAL  2014-05-25   03h 42m   4   2   2   0   0   -   0   -   -
SAL  2014-05-24   08h 42m   15  11  0   0   0   -   4   -   -
SAL  2014-05-23   07h 38m   5   4   0   0   0   -   1   -   -
SAL  2014-05-22   00h 00m          --- LOST DATA ---
SAL  2014-05-21   07h 57m   8   7   0   1   0   0   0   -   -
SAL  2014-05-20   08h 33m   6   4   0   0   0   1   1   -   -

SAL - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIS - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
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
ETA - Eta Aquariids
SOP - Southern May Ophiuchids
CCA - Chi Capricornids
CAM - Camelopardalids
NSC - Northern Omega Scorpiids
JMC - June Mu Cassiopeiids

Camelopardalid “No-show”?

Camelopardalids… more like the Camelopardaliduds or the Camelordalididn’ts.

Last weekend’s much anticipated Camelopardalid meteor shower from comet 209P/LINEAR was a big disappointment for most meteor watchers. Rather than ZHRs of 100-400, the peak ZHR only reached ~15 per hour. Making things even worse, the ZHR rate is not the rate of actual visible meteors (ZHR is meant for comparing different showers under different observing conditions; ZHR is an idealized rate only valid for observers under very dark skies and with the radiant overhead). Still a Camelopardalid ZHR of 100-400 should have produced 15-60 meteors per hour for the average observer. The actual ZHR of 15 means that most people saw a couple of Camelopardalids per hour at most.

Before going into what went wrong, let’s look at what we got right.

Comet 209P/LINEAR does produce meteors and, in particular, laid down a number of dust trails that caused a meteor outburst. In fact, the predicted time of for crossing the dust trails appears to have been spot on.

What went wrong? Obviously our understanding of the properties of the dust of 209P and perhaps even their exact location in space was wrong. The dust the Earth encountered was smaller than expected. Combine that with slow encounter velocities (19 km/s) and you get a shower that produced meteors that were too faint to be seen visually. Meteor radar observatories such as the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar and the Japanese Radio Meteor Observatory saw many more meteors in the 6th to 7th magnitude range.

In short, the biggest problem was that we were going into this shower blind. For a few years around 2000, very accurate predictions of the Leonids were made. But these predictions had the benefit of centuries of positive (and negative) observations to better quantify the number of meteors that could be seen. The Camelopardalids had no ‘back catalog’ of meteor outbursts. Not only were no outbursts observed prior to this year but the parent comet was only discovered in 2004. So we had no knowledge of how active, or even if the comet was active at all, prior to discovery.

For the people who study meteor showers and their parent comets, the shower (dud or not) was a learning experience and the data we collected is still very useful. 209P is making a very close approach to Earth (~0.06 AU tonight) and it is almost unprecedented that we can observe such a low-activity comet this close.

For more analysis and some early results on the shower, check out the pages by Peter Jenniskens and Sky and Telescope.

 

209P/LINEAR and this weekend’s Camelopardalids

This Friday evening/Saturday morning meteor watchers in Canada, the United States and Latin America may be treated to a meteor outburst from a rarely seen meteor shower. There is a possibility that dust from short-period comet 209P/LINEAR will produce a nice meteor shower.

There has been plenty already written on this possible shower, so I’ll just list a few sites that you should definitely visit.

American Meteor Society – where, when and how to observe the shower

Peter Jenniskens Meteor blog – the latest on what we know about the shower and its parent comet

International Meteor Organization – up-to-date activity graphs

The parent comet, 209P/LINEAR, is making a close approach to Earth this month. In fact at a little over 0.05 AU from Earth, 209P will be making the 9th closest known approach of a comet to Earth. Unfortunately it is very low activity comet and only observers with very large backyard telescopes will be able to see it. The movie below was made by myself only a few days after the comet’s perihelion.

Comet 209P/LINEAR as seen with the Vatican VATT 1.8-m telescope on 2014 May 9 UT in images by Carl Hergenrother.

 

May 11-19 Meteors

The middle of May saw some nice meteor nights over Tucson. Even with the Eta Aquariids dropping off from their early May peak, enough Sporadic and minor shower activity is ongoing to keep nightly video rates at a dozen or more.

The last third of May may bring many more meteors than usual as the Camelopardalids, a usually very minor shower, may experience an outburst on the night of May 23/24. More on this shower in the next few days.

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Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT ETA XLI ELY SOP CCA
SAL  2014-05-19   08h 49m   13  9   0   2   -   -   1   1
SAL  2014-05-18   08h 51m   10  7   1   0   -   -   1   1
SAL  2014-05-17   07h 18m   7   5   0   1   -   -   0   1
SAL  2014-05-16   08h 51m   20  15  3   2   -   -   0   0
SAL  2014-05-15   08h 55m   16  14  1   1   -   -   0   -
SAL  2014-05-14   08h 43m   13  11  0   2   -   -   0   -
SAL  2014-05-13   08h 59m   11  9   1   1   -   -   1   -
SAL  2014-05-12   08h 58m   14  7   0   4   -   2   1   -
SAL  2014-05-11   08h 47m   18  11  0   7   0   0   0   -

SAL - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIS - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
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
ETA - Eta Aquariids
XLI - April Chi Librids
ELY - Eta Lyrids
SOP - Southern May Ophiuchids
CCA - Chi Capricornids

May 1-10 Meteors

The end of last month experienced the peak of the major Lyrid meteor shower. The first week or so of May is seeing some signifiant activity from the Eta Aquariids (ETA). The ETAs are actually debris from Comet Halley. They are the sister shower to October’s Orionids (ORI). So if you’ve been seeing some long bright meteors during your early morning walks the past few mornings, you’ve actually been seeing small pieces of Halley’s comet.

The IMO Live ZHR page presents reports from visual observers from all around the world. They have been observing a good shower with ZHRs of ~50. It’s too bad the radiant is only observable for an hour or so prior to sunup from the the NH.

The ETAs were predicted to peak around May 7 UT and the IMO reports confirm this. My meteor camera totals disagree as the number of ETAs has continued to climb even though we are 2-3 days past the peak. Perhaps the number of bright ETAs (which are the only ones my camera can detect) are still increasing even though the total number of meteors (bright and faint) peaked a few nights ago. Regardless, the ETAs should wind down from here on out.

2014May10_ETA

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Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT ETA ABO PBO XLI ELY SOP
SAL  2014-05-10   08h 58m   23  11  0   11  -   -   0   1   0
SAL  2014-05-09   08h 55m   23  8   2   11  -   -   1   0   1
SAL  2014-05-08   09h 07m   17  9   1   7   -   -   0   0   0
SAL  2014-05-07   06h 16m   12  4   1   7   -   -   0   0   0
SAL  2014-05-06   09h 11m   12  3   2   7   -   -   0   0   0
SAL  2014-05-05   06h 49m   5   3   0   1   -   -   0   0   0
SAL  2014-05-04   09h 14m   16  9   2   5   0   0   0   0   0
SAL  2014-05-03   08h 42m   12  5   0   5   0   0   2   0   -
SAL  2014-05-02   08h 31m   25  14  4   5   1   0   1   -   -
SAL  2014-05-01   09h 06m   15  14  0   1   0   0   0   -   -

SAL - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIS - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
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
ETA - Eta Aquariids
ABO - Alpha Bootids
PBO - Phi Bootids
XLI - April Chi Librids
ELY - Eta Lyrids
SOP - Southern May Ophiuchids 

Late April Meteors

April 22 marked the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower. The Lyrids are considered a major shower though, in reality, they are the weakest of the major showers. You might even be able to call them the strongest minor shower.

The Lyrids were produced by comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher), a comet seen only in 1861. It is a high inclination (~80º) long-period comet with a period of ~400 years. The shower is also prone to outbursts though none was predicted for or reported this year. On the April 22 UT, a total of 21 Lyrids were observed. The star chart below shows the radiant of the Lyrids halfway between Lyra and the keystone of Hercules.

2014Apr22_Lyrids

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Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT SLE PPU LYR ETA
SAL  2014-04-30   09h 13m   16  12  1   -   -   -   3
SAL  2014-04-29   09h 23m   13  11  2   -   -   -   0
SAL  2014-04-28   09h 09m   12  10  1   -   0   -   1
SAL  2014-04-27   09h 01m   16  13  2   -   0   -   1
SAL  2014-04-26   08h 03m   6   4   0   2   0   -   0
SAL  2014-04-25   09h 07m   12  10  2   0   0   0   0
SAL  2014-04-24   08h 15m   11  8   1   0   0   2   0
SAL  2014-04-23   07h 39m   15  8   1   2   0   4   0
SAL  2014-04-22   09h 08m   30  8   1   0   0   21  0
SAL  2014-04-21   09h 12m   14  9   1   1   0   3   0
SAL  2014-04-20   07h 54m   15  13  0   1   0   1   0
SAL  2014-04-19   06h 19m   5   4   0   0   0   1   0
SAL  2014-04-18   00h 00m    "Clouds All Night"
SAL  2014-04-17   08h 23m   11  7   2   1   0   1   -
SAL  2014-04-16   09h 49m   17  13  3   1   0   0   -

SAL - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIS - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
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 - AntihelionsZSE - Zeta Serpentids
SLE - Sigma Leonids
PPU - Pi Puppids
LYR - Lyrids
ETA - Eta Aquariids
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