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

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

Early April Meteors

It has been awhile since I last posted. Even though I’ve been quiet, my meteor camera has been running almost every night (though I did forget to turn it on one night :) ).

Early April continues a period of no active major showers. The period does contain many active minor showers. Though most produce little activity, the Sigma Leonids (SLE) showed a consistent level of low activity through out early and late April. The SLEs are on a low inclination Jupiter-family comet or near-Earth asteroid orbit.

My next post will present the meteors from late April when we’ll see some activity from a major shower.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT ZSE ZCY LVI DAL SLE PPU
SAL  2014-04-15   09h 37m   9   9   0   -   -   -   0   0   0
SAL  2014-04-14   09h 44m   14  11  2   -   -   -   0   1   -
SAL  2014-04-13   09h 21m   10  7   0   -   -   0   0   3   -
SAL  2014-04-12   00h 42m   1   1   0   -   -   0   0   0   -
SAL  2014-04-11   03h 29m   2   2   0   -   0   0   0   0   -
SAL  2014-04-10   09h 37m   8   5   2   -   0   0   1   0   -
SAL  2014-04-09   09h 27m   11  8   1   -   0   0   0   2   -
SAL  2014-04-08   09h 02m   11  9   0   -   0   1   0   1   -
SAL  2014-04-07   09h 46m   16  16  0   -   0   0   0   -   -
SAL  2014-04-06   09h 44m   13  9   3   -   1   0   0   -   -
SAL  2014-04-05   10h 02m   7   5   1   -   1   0   -   -   -
SAL  2014-04-04   09h 55m   10  5   3   -   0   2   -   -   -
SAL  2014-04-03   09h 33m   11  10  1   0   0   -   -   -   -
SAL  2014-04-02   09h 29m   14  14  0   0   0   -   -   -   -
SAL  2014-04-01   00h 00m       "FORGOT to TURN on CAMERA"

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
ZCY - Zeta Cygnids
LVI - Lambda Virginids
DAL - Delta Aquiliids
SLE - Sigma Leonids
PPU - Pi Puppids

Meteor Shower Activity for May 10-16, 2014

The Meteor Activity Outlook for the period 2014 February 15-21 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: Eta Aquariids (ETA), Eta Lyrids (ELY) and Theta 2 Sagittariids (TTS).

March 16-31 Meteors

March continues the “doldrum” season of meteor observing. With no major showers active and sporadic activity at a minimum, this time of the year sees the lowest meteor rates. April is also a bit dull though one major shower, the Lyrids, will spice things up for a few nights.

The second half of March did minor but consistent activity from two showers, the Eta Virginids (EVI) (discussed in a previous post) and the Zeta Serpentids (ZSE). The ZSE were produced by an unknown retrograde long-period comet with a perihelion near 0.99 AU from the Sun and inclination of 150º.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT GNO EVI XHE NVI ZSE
SAL  2014-03-31   10h 22m   15  11  2   -   0   -   -   2
SAL  2014-03-30   10h 00m   9   8   1   -   0   -   -   0
SAL  2014-03-29   10h 11m   17  16  0   -   1   -   -   0
SAL  2014-03-28   09h 51m   15  12  1   -   0   -   -   2
SAL  2014-03-27   09h 28m   6   5   1   -   0   -   -   0
SAL  2014-03-26   10h 31m   12  7   2   -   1   -   -   2
SAL  2014-03-25   09h 19m   19  16  1   -   0   -   -   2
SAL  2014-03-24   09h 51m   5   4   0   -   0   -   -   1
SAL  2014-03-23   10h 30m   21  14  4   -   1   -   -   2
SAL  2014-03-22   10h 40m   12  10  0   0   0   -   1   1
SAL  2014-03-21   08h 58m   7   5   1   0   0   -   1   0
SAL  2014-03-20   10h 30m   15  10  2   0   2   -   1   0
SAL  2014-03-19   10h 46m   6   4   2   0   0   -   0   0
SAL  2014-03-18   10h 48m   8   4   3   0   1   -   0   -
SAL  2014-03-17   10h 50m   6   5   0   0   1   0   0   -
SAL  2014-03-16   10h 52m   21  14  5   0   2   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
GNO - Gamma Normids
EVI - Eta Virginids
XHE - x Herculids
NVI - Northern March Virginids
ZSE - Zeta Serpentids

Jan 10/11/12 Meteors

The most active minor meteor shower during the nights of Jan 10/11 and 11/12 was the December Leo Minorids (DLM). The DLM is one of many showers that seem to be active this time of the year in Leo, Leo Minor and nearby constellations. There is even some debate as to whether the DLM is a real shower or just a part of a continuum of showers.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT COM DLM NCC XCB
SAL  2014-01-11   12h 34m   25  19  3   0   3   0   0
SAL  2014-01-12   12h 33m   27  19  3   1   3   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
COM - Coma Berenicids
DLM - December Leonis Minorids
NCC - Northern Delta Cancrids
XCB - Xi Corona Borealids

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
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