Meteor Activity Outlook for January 4-10, 2014

The Meteor Activity Outlook for the period 2014 January 4-10 has been posted by Bob Lunsford on the American Meteor Society website.

The Outlook has details on meteors from the Antihelion region and the following showers: Quadrantids, Alpha Hydrids, January Leonids, and December Leonis Minorids.

Jan 5/6 Meteors

Now that’s more like it. After two straight nights with cirrus, a clear night once again produced a larger number of detections. (And yes I know I shouldn’t complain about a few nights of cirrus when much of the US and Canada is undergoing a deep freeze).

The short window to see Quadrantids has already closed and this shower is done for the year. Still the other minor showers and Sporadics produced 30 detections.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT AHY COM DLM JLE
SAL  2014-01-06   12h 38m   30  26  1   2   1   1   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
AHY - Alpha Hydrids
COM - Coma Berenicids
DLM - December Leonis Minorids
JLE - January Leonids
QUA - Quadrantids

Jan 3/4/5 Meteors

The last two nights have been hampered by high cirrus in southern Arizona. As a result, meteor rates were suppressed. It also doesn’t help that last week’s major shower, the Quadrantids, has come and gone and none of the established meteor showers are showing much activity. Hopefully more will be picked up tonight since there are no clouds in the forecast.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT AHY COM DLM JLE QUA
SAL  2014-01-04   12h 38m   11  8   1   0   1   0   0   1
SAL  2014-01-05   12h 33m   16  13  2   0   0   0   0   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
AHY - Alpha Hydrids
COM - Coma Berenicids
DLM - December Leonis Minorids
JLE - January Leonids
QUA - Quadrantids

Jan 2/3 Meteors and the Quadrantids

The Quadrantid meteor shower was most definitely active this morning over southern Arizona. Though the actual peak of Quadrantid activity likely occurred some hours later, both the SALSA3 video system and my own visual observations detected many Quads.

Over the course of 1 hour of observation under a limiting magnitude of 6.0 sky, I detected 29 meteors of which 22 were Quadrantids. Unlike the Geminids of last month, the Quads were relatively faint with no negative magnitude meteors. The video camera doesn’t see as faint as the human eye but makes up for lack in sensitivity by running tirelessly all night long. As a result the camera picked up even more meteors (64 in total with 42 being Quadrantids). If the peak really occurred over Asia as predicted then Quad activity should be good but rapidly falling over Europe and more or less over for the wester hemisphere tonight.

Backward trace plot of meteors detected by the SALSA3 video system from Tucson/Tanque Verde, Arizona on the night of 2014 Jan 3 UT. The Quadrantid radiant is very apparent. Plot created with the MetRec meteor detection software. Credit: Carl Hergenrother.
Backward trace plot of meteors detected by the SALSA3 video system from Tucson/Tanque Verde, Arizona on the night of 2014 Jan 3 UT. The Quadrantid radiant is very apparent. Plot created with the MetRec meteor detection software. Credit: Carl Hergenrother.

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Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT AHY COM DLM JLE QUA
SAL  2014-01-03   12h 39m   64  18  2   0   0   1   1   42
VIS  2014-01-03   01h 00m   29   7                      22 (LM=~6.0)

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
AHY - Alpha Hydrids
COM - Coma Berenicids
DLM - December Leonis Minorids
JLE - January Leonids
QUA - Quadrantids

Jan 1/2 Meteors and Tonight’s Quadrantids

Tonight brings the peak of the best meteor shower you have probably never seen. The best showers of the year are almost always August’s Perseids and December’s Geminids. Number 3 and 4 are usually October’s Orionids or tonight’s shower, the Quadrantids.

The reason I say the Quads are probably the best shower you’ve never seen is two-fold. First as a northern shower, they take place in the dead of winter and only a few days after New Year’s. If the exhaustion from the Holiday’s season doesn’t keep most people inside then the cold definitely will. Also unlike most showers which have broad peaks which last a few days, the peak of the Quads is very narrow. Even if you are observing on the peak night, you can miss much of the show if you are off the peak by only 12 hours.

The International Meteor Organization predicts this year’s Quads peak to take place at ~19:30 UT on the 3rd which suggests the best viewing will be in Asia. But… predicting the peak time for this shower is always difficult so pretty much anywhere on Earth may see the best. The only way to know is to get out and look.

Bob Lunsford has posted an excellent guide to observing the Quads at the American Meteor Society (AMS) website. Please check it and the AMS (of which I am their Secretary) out.

For many years, astronomers were uncertain as to which comet caused the Quadrantids. No known comets was visible on a similar orbit even though the narrowness and strength of the meteor stream suggested it was created recently. We now know that the asteroid (196256) 2003 EH1 is the likely parent body of the Quads. Even though today it appears as nothing more than an asteroid it was a comet in the past and a rather bright one when seen in 1490. Earlier this year I observed 2003 EH1 with the Vatican Obs/Univ. of Arizona VATT 1.8-m as seen in the image below.

[I forgot to add that yesterday's Earth impacting asteroid, 2014 AA, is not related to the Quadrantid meteor shower. The asteroid and the meteors have very different orbits and the fact that they both intersected the Earth on the same day (or two) is not only a coincidence but shows just how crowded space is with debris.]

Co-added R-band image of the Quadrantids parent body (xxx) 2003 EH1 taken on 2013 Sep. xx.xx UT with the Vatican VATT 1.8-m. Credit: Carl Hergenrother/Vatican Obs./University of Arizona.

Co-added R-band image of the Quadrantids parent body (196256) 2003 EH1 taken on 2013 Sep. 14.25 UT with the Vatican VATT 1.8-m. At the time the object showed no cometary activity. Credit: Carl Hergenrother/Vatican Obs./University of Arizona.

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Last night was another clear night in Tucson. Though 28 meteors were detected, only 2 were possible Quads. Tonight should see a huge increase in Quadrantid meteors.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT AHY COM DAD DLM JLE QUA
SAL  2014-01-02   12h 33m   28  23  1   0   0   0   2   0   2

SAL - SALSA3 camera in 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
AHY - Alpha Hydrids
COM - Coma Berenicids
DAD - December Alpha Draconids
DLM - December Leonis Minorids
JLE - January Leonids
QUA - Quadrantids

Happy New Year’s Meteors

Happy New Year and Welcome to 2014!

The new year also sees us welcoming a few more active meteor showers. The most important is the Quadrantids. Last night only a single possible QUA was seen but that should rapidly change starting tonight.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT AHY COM DAD DLM JLE QUA
SAL  2014-01-01   12h 41m   35  26  0   2   2   3   0   1   1

SAL - SALSA3 camera in 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
AHY - Alpha Hydrids
COM - Coma Berenicids
DAD - December Alpha Draconids
DLM - December Leonis Minorids
JLE - January Leonids
QUA - Quadrantids

Meteor Activity Outlook for December 28, 2013-January 3, 2014

The Meteor Activity Outlook for the period 2013 December 28 to 2014 January 3 has been posted by Bob Lunsford on the American Meteor Society website.

The Outlook has details on meteors from the Antihelion region and the following showers: Quadrantids, Alpha Hydrids, January Leonids, December Leonis Minorids, Coma Berenicids, December Sigma Virginids.

Meteor Activity Outlook for December 29-January 4, 2013

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.

During this period the moon wanes from its current full phase to a little more than one-half illuminated on January 4, 2013.  This weekend the waning gibbous moon will rise during the early evening hours and will effectively ruin the sky with intense moonlight the remainder of the night. As the week progresses the moon will rise a little later each evening but the more active morning hours will still be compromised by moonlight. The strong Quadrantid meteor shower will peak on Thursday morning January 3rd, with a bright gibbous moon located near the Leo-Virgo border. Activity can be still seen from the Quadrantids if your skies are clear and transparent. It would also be wise to keep the moon out of your field of view by facing the north to east quadrant of the sky. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near two for observers located at mid-northern latitudes and one for observers in mid-southern latitudes. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near five from the mid-northern hemisphere and three from the mid-southern hemisphere. 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 entire period due to 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 December 29/30. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The table below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning . Details of each shower will again be provided next week when the situation with moonlight improves.

Antihelions (ANT) – 07:24 (111) +21   Velocity – 30km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere – 1 per hr.   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hr

Alpha Hydrids (AHY) – 08:12 (123) -07   Velocity – 45km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr.   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hr

January Leonids (JLE) – 09:48 (147) +25   Velocity – 45km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr.   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hr

December Leonis Minorids (DLM) – 11:20 (170) +26   Velocity – 64km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr.   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hr

Coma Berenicids (COM) – 12:20 (185) +13   Velocity – 69km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr.   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hr

Dec. Sigma Virginids (DSV) – 14:16 (214) +02    Velocity – 44km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr.   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hr

Quadrantids (QUA) – 15:24 (231) +49   Velocity – 42km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr. Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hr

Clear Skies!
Robert Lunsford
American Meteor Society

Meteor Activity Outlook for December 31, 2011 to January 6, 2012

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.

January is best known for the Quadrantids, which have the potential of being the best shower of the year. Unfortunately this shower is short lived and occurs during some of the worst weather in the northern hemisphere. Due to the high northern declination (celestial latitude) and short summer nights, little of this activity can be seen south of the equator. Sporadic rates are generally similar in both hemispheres this month. Sporadic rates are falling though for observers in the northern hemisphere and rising as seen from the southern hemisphere.

During this period the moon reaches it first quarter phase on Sunday January 1st. At this time the moon will be located ninety degrees east of the sun and will set near midnight local standard time (LST). As the week progresses the waxing gibbous moon will set later in the morning hours, shrinking the window of opportunity to view under a dark sky. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near three as seen from the northern hemisphere and two as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near fifteen as seen from mid-northern latitudes and ten 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 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 December 31st/January 1st. 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 large Antihelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 07:32 (113) +21. This position lies in eastern Gemini, two degrees east of the fourth magnitude star Wasat (Delta Geminorum). Due to the large size of this radiant, Antihelion activity may also appear from Monoceros, Canis Minor, or Cancer. This radiant is best placed near 0100 LST, when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near two per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and one per hour from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of slow velocity.

The Alpha Hydrids (AHY) are active from December 31st through January 9th. Peak activity occurs on January 1st from a radiant located at 08:24 (126) -08. This position lies in extreme western Hydra, fifteen degrees west of the second magnitude star Alphard (Alpha Hydrae). Rates would most likely be near one per hour, no matter your location. The Alpha Hydrids are best seen near 0200 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. At 45 km/sec. the Alpha Hydrids produce mostly meteors of medium velocity.

Studies of the IMO’s video database by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel has shown another active radiant in Leo this time of year. The January Leonids (JLE) are active from January 1st to 6th with maximum activity occurring on January 2nd. On the 2nd the radiant is located at 09:46 (147) +24. This position lies in western Leo just west of the third magnitude star Algenubi (Epsilon Leonis). This is a very minor display with hourly rates of less than one expected, even at maximum activity. They are best seen near 0300 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. At 54 km/sec. the January Leonids (JLE) produce mostly meteors of medium-swift velocity.

The December Leonis Minorids (DLM) are active from a radiant located at 11:27 (172) +25. This position lies in a blank area of northeastern Leo. The nearest bright star is third magnitude Zosma (Delta Leonis), which lies six degrees to the southwest. These meteors are best seen near 0500 local standard time (LST) when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. This shower peaked on December 20th so current rates would be near one per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and less than one per hour as seen from south of the equator. At 64 km/sec. the December Leonis Minorids produce mostly swift meteors.

The Quadrantids (QUA) or January Bootids are active from January 1st through the 10th. A sharp maximum is predicted to occur near 0730 Universal Time on the 4th. This corresponds to 02:30 EST and 23:30 PST (January 3rd). This is good timing for viewers located in eastern North America as the radiant will rising above the northeastern horizon. It would even be better if the maximum were a it later as the radiant would be located higher in the sky, producing more activity. Rates will depend on the exact time of maximum and whether the moon is still above the horizon. Assuming the 0730 UT timing is correct, the further one is located in North America, the better. Eastern observers may be able to see 60-75 Quadrantids per hour. If your skies are very clear and dark, allowing you to see faint meteors, your rates could top 100 per hour. Observers located in the western portions of North American will have lower rates but will also have the opportunity to see Quadrantid “earthgrazers”. Earthgrazers are meteors that skim the upper portion of the atmosphere therefore lasting much longer than normal and producing long trails in the sky. These meteors can only be seen when the radiant lies close to the horizon. As the radiant rises, the meteor paths will become shorter with shorter durations. Observers in the northern hemisphere outside of North America can expect to see a maximum of 25 Quadrantids per hour between moon set and dawn. Observers south of the equator will see little of this display as the radiant will have little chance to clear the horizon before morning twilight interferes.

At maximum the radiant is located at 15:21 (230) +49. This position lies in a barren  region of extreme northern Bootes, ten degrees northeast of the fourth magnitude star Beta Bootis. At 42 km/sec. the Quadrantids produce meteors of medium velocity. During exceptional activity some Quadrantid fireballs may be witnessed.

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 seven 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. Evening rates are reduced due to moonlight.

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
ANT Antihelions           07h 32m  +21    30     2     1
AHY Alpha Hydrids         08h 24m  -08    45     1     1
JLE January Leonids       11h 04m  +28    54    <1    <1
DLM Dec Leonis Minorids   11h 27m  +25    64     1    <1
QUA Quadrantids           15h 21m  +49    42    <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

Meteor Activity Outlook for January 1-7, 2011

The Meteor Activity Outlook is a weekly summary of expected meteor activity written by Robert Lunsford, Operations Manager of the American Meteor Society and contributor to this blog. The original unedited version of this week’s Meteor Activity Outlook can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

January sees a peak of sporadic activity for the southern hemisphere while rates seen north of the equator begin a steady downward turn that continues throughout the first half of the year. The sporadic activity is good for both hemispheres, but not as good as it was for northern observers in December. Once the Quadrantids have passed the shower activity for January is very quiet.

During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Tuesday January 4th. At this time the moon lies near the sun and is not visible at night. This will be the best time of the month to view meteor activity as the moon will not interfere plus the meteor rates will be at their highest. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near eight from the northern hemisphere and two for observers south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near forty-five from the northern hemisphere and twenty as seen from the southern hemisphere. 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 January 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:

Antihelions (ANT)

The wide Antihelion (ANT) radiant is now centered at 07:36 (114) +21. This area of the sky lies in eastern Gemini, seven degrees south of the bright first magnitude star Pollux (Beta Geminorum). This radiant is best placed near 0100 local standard time (LST) when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Due to the large size of this radiant, any meteor radiating from Gemini, Canis Minor, eastern Auriga, southern Lynx or Cancer could be a candidate for this shower. Rates at this time should be near three per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and two per hour for observers located south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of medium-slow speed.

Alpha Hydrids (AHY)

The Alpha Hydrids (AHY) are active from December 30th through January 8th. Peak activity occurred on December 31. Rates would most likely now be less than one per hour, no matter your location. The radiant is currently located at 08:28 (127) -08. This position lies in extreme western Hydra, fifteen degrees west of the second magnitude star Alphard (Alpha Hydrae). The Alpha Hydrids are best seen near 0200 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. At 45 km/sec. the Alpha Hydrids produce mostly meteors of medium velocity.

January Leonids (JLE)

Studies of the IMO’s video database by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel has shown an active radiant in Leo this time of year. The January Leonids (JLE) are active from December 31st to January 5th with maximum activity occurring on January 1st. On the 1st the radiant is located at 09:46 (147) +24. This position lies in western Leo just west of the third magnitude star Algenubi (Epsilon Leonis). This is a very minor display with hourly rates of less than one expected, even at maximum activity. They are best seen near 0300 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. At 54 km/sec. the January Leonids (JLE) produce mostly meteors of medium-swift velocity.

December Leonis Minorids (DLM)

The December Leonis Minorids (DLM) are active from a radiant located at 11:58 (173) +25. This position lies in a blank area of northeastern Leo, directly between the bright stars Denebola (Beta Leonis) and Nu Ursae Majoris. These meteors are best seen near 0500 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. This shower peaked on December 20th so current rates would be near two per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and one per hour as seen from south of the equator. At 64km/sec. the December Leonis Minorids produce mostly swift meteors.

Quadrantids (QUA)

The Quadrantids (QUA) or January Bootids are active from January 1st through the 10th. A sharp maximum is predicted to occur near 0100 Universal Time on the 4th. This corresponds to 20:00 (8pm) EST and 17:00 (5pm) PST on the evening of January 3. This is bad timing for viewers located in North America as the radiant will either be low or beneath the northwestern horizon. At such low radiant elevations very little Quadrantid activity can be expected to be seen. Your best bet is to wait until the morning of the 4th when the radiant was risen in the northeastern sky. From 0100 to dawn expect to see up to 25 Quadrantids per hour. Observers viewing from eastern Europe and western Asia will have the maximum occur during the morning hours when the radiant lies high in the sky. They can expect to see near 60 Quadrantids per hour, perhaps more if the shower is especially active. The radiant is located at 15:21 (230) +49. This position lies in a bare region of extreme northern Bootes, ten degrees northeast of the fourth magnitude star Beta Bootis. At 42 km/sec. the Quadrantids produce meteors of medium velocity. During exceptional activity some Quadrantid fireballs may be witnessed.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately fifteen 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 thirteen per hour as seen from rural observing sites and three 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
ANT Antihelions           07h 36m  +21    30     3     2
AYD Alpha Hydrids         08h 28m  -08    61    <1    <1
JLE January Leonids       09h 46m  +24    54    <1    <1
DLM Dec Leonis Minorids   11h 58m  +25    71     2     1
QUA Quadrantids           15h 21m  +49    42     5    <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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