Meteor Activity Outlook for December 12-18, 2009

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.

No matter where you live, the first half of December provides some of the best meteor activity of the year. In the northern hemisphere the sporadic rates are still strong plus you can also count on strong activity from the Geminids, which peak on December 13. There are also several minor radiants that add a few meteors each hour. All of these centers of activity are located high in the sky during the early morning hours this time of year. Unfortunately this year the bright moon spoils the show during the first week of the month. During the second week of December the moon will pass its last quarter phase and will not be such a nuisance .

As seen from the southern hemisphere the sporadic rates are increasing toward a January maximum. Shower rates are also good but the Geminids suffer a bit from the lower elevation seen from southern locations. Still with the warmer weather now occurring south of the equator, December is a great time to view celestial fireworks.

During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Wednesday December 16th. On that date the moon lies near the sun and cannot be seen at night. This weekend the waning crescent moon will rise during the late morning hours but will not cause any interference. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near five as seen from the northern hemisphere and three from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near forty 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 positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning December 12/13. 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)

Now that the activity from particles produced by comet 2P/Encke has ceased encountering the Earth, the Taurid showers for 2009 are over and we resume reporting activity from the Antihelion radiant. This is not a true radiant but rather activity caused by the Earth’s motion through space. As the Earth revolves around the sun it encounters particles orbiting in a pro-grade motion that are approaching their perihelion point. They all appear to be radiating from an area near the opposition point of the sun, hence the name Antihelion. These were once recorded as separate showers throughout the year but it is now suggested to bin them into their category separate from true showers and sporadics. This radiant is a very large oval some thirty degrees wide by fifteen degrees high. Activity from this radiant can appear from more than one constellation. The position listed here is for the center of the radiant which is currently located at 06:16 (094) +23. This position lies in western Gemini near the fourth magnitude star Eta Geminorum. Antihelion activity may also appear from eastern Taurus, northeastern Orion, or southern Auriga. This radiant is best placed near 0100 local standard time (LST) when it lies on the meridian and is highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be ~3 per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and ~2 per hour from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of slow speed.

Monocerotids (MON)

The Monocerotids (MON) are active from a radiant located at 06:52 (103) +07. This position lies in northwestern Monoceros halfway between the bright stars Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis) and Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris). This shower peaked on December 8, so activity is waning. Current rates would most likely average < 1 per hour no matter your location. The Monocerotids are best seen near 0100 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. At 41 km/sec. the Monocerotids produce mostly meteors of medium velocity.

Geminids (GEM)

The Geminids (GEM) are active from a radiant located at 07:33 (113) +32. This position lies in northern Gemini near the fourth magnitude star Rho Geminorum. Although Geminid meteors can be seen all night long, they are best seen near 0200 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. This shower is expected to peak Sunday and Monday December 13/14 when rates can surpass 60 shower members per hour as seen from dark sites. Geminid activity can be seen from the southern hemisphere but at at much reduced rate. As seen from south of the equator, Geminid activity could only be seen for a few hours before and after 0200 LST. At 35 km/sec. the Geminids produce mostly meteors of medium velocity.

Puppids-Velids (PUP)

The Puppid-Velids (PUP) are a vast complex of weak radiants located in the constellations of Puppis and Vela. Visual plots and photographic studies have revealed many radiants in this area during November and December. The combined strength of these radiants can produce a ZHR of 10. Actual hourly rates will be much less unless you happen to be observing from the deep Southern Hemisphere. The center of this activity is currently located at 08:26 (126) -45. This position lies in western Vela, five degrees northeast of the second magnitude star Gamma Velorum. Peak rates occurred near December 7 so current activity is waning. These meteors are best seen near 0300 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. Observers located in the Southern Hemisphere have an advantage viewing this shower as the radiant will rise higher into their sky allowing more activity to be seen. At 40 km/sec. the Puppid-Velids produce meteors of medium velocity.

Sigma Hydrids (HYD)

The Sigma Hydrids (HYD) are active from a radiant located at 08:42 (130) +01. This position lies in western Hydra, just below the group of fourth magnitude stars that make up the “head” of the water serpent. These meteors are best seen near 0300 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. Current rates would be ~1 per hour no matter your location. At 61 km/sec. the Sigma Hydrids produce mostly swift meteors.

December Leonis Minorids (DLM)

The December Leonis Minorids (DLM) are active from a radiant located at 10:22 (155) +34. This position lies in central Leo Minor, approximately ten degrees north of the third magnitude star Zeta Leonis. These meteors are best seen near 0500 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. This shower peaks on December 20th so current rates would be ~1 per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and < 1 per hour as seen from south of the equator. At 64 km/sec. the December Leonis Minorids produce mostly swift meteors.

Coma Berenicids (COM)

Activity from the Coma Berenicids (COM) has just begun for 2009. The radiant is located at 11:30 (173) +18. This position actually lies in eastern Leo, five degrees northwest of the second magnitude star Denebola (Beta Leonis). These meteors are best seen near 0600 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. This shower peaks on December 16th so current rates would be ~1 per hour no matter your location. At 65 km/sec. the Coma Berenicids produce mostly swift meteors.

December Alpha Draconids (DAD)

Lastly, the December Alpha Draconids (DAD) are active from a radiant located at 14:00 (210) +58. This position actually lies in northeastern Ursa Major, six degrees northeast of the second magnitude double star Mizar (Zeta Ursae Majoris). These meteors are best seen during the last dark hour before dawn, when the radiant lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. This shower is near the end of its activity period so expected rates would be < 1 no matter your location. At 44 km/sec. the Alpha Draconids produce mostly medium speed meteors.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see ~16 Sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be ~3 per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be ~10 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and ~2 per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures.

The table below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning but may be used all week long.

Shower Name                RA     DEC   Vel     Rates
                                        km/s   NH    SH
ANT Antihelions          06h 16m  +23    30     3     2
MON Monocerotids         06h 52m  +07    41    <1    <1
GEM Geminids             07h 33m  +32    35    60    20
PUP Puppids-Velids       08h 26m  -45    40    <1     2
HYD Sigma Hydrids        08h 42m  +01    61     1     1
DLE Dec Leonis Minorids  10h 22m  +34    64     1    <1
COM Coma Berenicids      11h 30m  +18    65     1     1
DAD Dec Alpha Draconids  14h 00m  +58    44    <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

About Carl Hergenrother
I am a professional astronomer specializing in the study of comets, asteroids and meteors. This blog will focus on my professional and amateur work in this field

31 Responses to Meteor Activity Outlook for December 12-18, 2009

  1. Zerph says:

    I saw a big meteor with flames trailing behind at 5:53 PM Dec. 12. I was looking west from I 91 at Hanover NH. Any one else see this one? Also saw a smaller one looking south from Hanover NH around 10 PM the same night.

    • BobH says:

      We saw this too, Dec 12 5:54pm by our car clock. We were just south of I-88 exit 7 at Afton, NY, facing a little east of North. It was low enough in the sky to be easy to spot thru the windshield for me as driver, but my daughter in the back seat had to duck down to see it. It traveled level with horizon from right to left, leaving a thick bright persistent trail that seemed to drip with sparks. The entire show lasted about 4 seconds, long enough for me to realize what it was, alert my teenaged daughter, have her locate it and react also. Quite beautiful –

  2. Patricia says:

    Zerph:
    I saw it, from NH border it appeared to traverse southwesterly, near Littleton NH. Large and beautiful, it appeared to be pale green.
    Wonder who else may have seen this?!

    • Zerph says:

      Patricia,
      Glad to hear that you saw it. I was driving with my daughter but she missed it.I’ve seem four , two quite large, meteors this month.

  3. Jeff Ross says:

    Hi

    Been looking for some details of what I saw. I was outside, in France, looking for the Migrating Cranes when I saw something like a firework in the sky. It wasn’t quite dark yet and I saw a light source trailing sparkles? Wasn’t like the normal falling stars we see here … any ideas. I was at 00.02.46East
    44.43.10North and I was facing SE/ESE.

    • Colin O'Rourke says:

      Hi,

      I saw the same thing Sat. night 12/12 in Northeast Connecticut (North Grosvenordale) around 6:30pm, thought it was a firework of sort falling to earth but then realized it was much too big, a large light sorce with trailing sparks (oraange and white) traveling southwest I believe.

  4. elena cahill says:

    We saw a meteor driving north from Foxborough on 1-93 in Massachusetts around 5:30, it was beautiful, a yellow ball with bright orange red and green trailing shooting superfast

  5. Tricia Hill says:

    Myself, my friend and my sister were in the car in Latham N.Y. on our way to a Christmas party just before 6pm on Sat Dec. 12th when it appeared in the sky in front of us. It was the biggest, brightest most colorful shooting star we’d ever seen. It was bright with color of green with the most amazing tale. It seemed to just appear out of nowhere and moved quite slow from right to left in front of us. We were so excited and overwhelmed (and a tad nervous!) when we saw it that I immediately called 3 or 4 people to tell them.

    I’m wondering if this was a comet, rather than a meteor because of the fact that it was so big and slow moving. Usually meteors are so quick you almost miss them. Does anyone have any ideas on this??

    • Zerph says:

      That’s the same one I saw…it was a meteor. There are a LOT coming by right now!

    • Kayla says:

      I was on my way to my family Christmas party as well and saw the same exact one. I stopped at a stop sign a bit longer than intended… looked up and watched it streak across the sky. What I saw was a big blue ball with a bright, solid red/orange tail. At the party it turns out that two of my aunts and one uncle saw it as well. We were all wonder the same thing though of what it really was seeing as it moved so slowly and just flickered out.

  6. Ann says:

    My husband and I were on 146N in Woonsocket, RI about 5:55 pm. We saw a large greenish orange ball with a long tail that seemed to be sparking. I couldn’t believe the size or color of it. Actually scared me as I’ve never seen anything like it. Anyone know what it was?

    • Tricia Hill says:

      LOL It scared me too! My heart was racing and for a split second I truly thought to myself, “omg, this thing is NOT going to stop”…

  7. Ann says:

    PLEASE NOTE; We saw this on Saturday 12/12.

  8. Ren says:

    My husband and I saw the same meteor close to 6:00pm on December 12. We were driving in SW Massachusetts heading North. We were astonished by the size and brightness of its green color. The meteor also was moving from left to right and was slow enough that we had lots of time to observe it. Definitely the largest and brightest shooting star we’ve ever seen!

  9. Michelle Miller says:

    We were driving Northbound on Rte 3 through Braintree at 5:54 p.m. on Saturday December12, when I looked up and saw the biggest meteorite I have ever seen. It was coming across the sky in an arc very low to the ground. It was a huge orange fireball with a tail and trailing sparks. It looked like it actually hit the ground still on fire. It was beautiful, amazing and even a little scary because it was so big. My boyfriend thought I was seeing a reflection of something off the windshield and wouldn’t believe me until i showed him all of these posts! I will definitely never forget it!!!

  10. Jane says:

    We were in Merrimack, NH on Daniel Webster Highway and saw the same thing on 12/12/09 around 5:55. Very large meteor, traveling very fast. It passed right across my line of sight right to left at about a 45 deg angle until it either burned out or hit. We couldn’t see where it went once it came down. It was Red/green/yellow with a long tail. Absolutely thrilling and beautiful!

  11. Stephanie says:

    I was in Enfield NH at the shrine of La Salette, and I saw the meteor it was HUGE and blue with flames. It was really bright, my mom thought she was imagining it but both my friend and I saw it too. It was kinda sad not many others noticed tho it was really cool!

  12. Ruben says:

    I also saw what seems to fit the description of a lot of people here on December 12, 2009 at around 5:50-6:00 but I am 20 miles from Montreal, Quebec and the Meteorite was flying south of where I was.

  13. Zerph says:

    Sounds like…I mean.

    • Ruben says:

      Looks that way I happened to be outside looked up and saw this flying object stared at it for about 30-60 secs and then I couldn’t see it anymore. Pretty cool.

  14. David says:

    I was traveling north on Rt. 9 in Latham, NY, just before 6pm on Saturday December 12, when my girlfriend and I noticed something very bright and trailing sparks coming across the sky, near the horizon, from the West to East. We were near the Albany Airport and for a moment, I thought it was a plane in trouble. It was wild. And later that evening, between 9pm and 10pm, we noticed another bright light in the sky when we arrived home in Niverville, NY.

    • Tricia Hill says:

      We were on Rt. 9 also when we saw it. I’m still telling people about it to this day. Something I’ll never forget, that’s for sure!

  15. Kathy says:

    My husband, myself and our 5 year old daughter saw it as well, we were on route 16 in Revere, Ma, around 5:55 we were near the airport and thought it might have fallen from an airplane, but realized it was probably a shooting star. It was very bright and traveled from right to left and looked like it hit the ground, it just kept falling and disappeared into the horizon! It was so cool to see! My husband and I were just talking about it and I looked it up and found this web-site, so I know I am not crazy!!

    • Tricia Hill says:

      LOL…you’re definitely not crazy. As soon as I was able to get online I started Googling it. I was thinking someone else HAD to have seen it, and sure enough they did! I’m really surprised nothing was said about it on the local news sites.

  16. Kayla says:

    Kayla :
    I was on my way to my family Christmas party as well and saw the same exact one. I stopped at a stop sign a bit longer than intended… looked up and watched it streak across the sky. What I saw was a big blue ball with a bright, solid red/orange tail. At the party it turns out that two of my aunts and one uncle saw it as well. We were all wonder the same thing though of what it really was seeing as it moved so slowly and just flickered out.

    This was in Mechanicville, NY just before 6 pm

  17. Frank says:

    Nephew and I were traveling on I93 north just South of Salem NH at about 5:45p or so. We saw blue green tail, preceded by ball, which we recall was blue green too. It was fairly low on horizon. It seemed to land just north and west of us, somewhere in NH or VT border.

  18. Mike says:

    On the night of Dec 12, 2009 at approx. 6pm me and my wife were driving North in Rocky Hill, Ct and saw a VERY bright green meteor. Ive never seen anything like it. It was huge and bright….

  19. david says:

    I was headed north from Franklin, Ma. towards Framingham when I saw it. It fell from my right and disappeared into the horizon in front of me. It sounds like from other witnesses, that it fell somewhere in northern Ma. We should go out and try to find it. Those things are worth a lot of money! When I saw it, it was a beautiful pale green. It appeared to slow down a bit and then speed up again before it hit the ground. Keep looking up!

  20. Matt says:

    On December 12th at 5:45 PM I drove to collect my daughters at the movies. I headed north onto route 28, and just above the Rochester, MA tree line, I saw a huge flame with flaring sparks shoot across the dark horizon. It appeared to land in these woods. I stopped the car, called 911, and waited to hear the explosion. None followed. The girls saw nothing.

    Everyone I asked saw nothing, except for Bill. My scientist friend and his wife witnessed this precursor Meteor from western Massachusetts while visiting their son at college. Bill was scheduled to wake at 2:00 AM the following morning to watch the complete Geminids Meteor Shower and was amazed by this early, giant, single meteor display. None of the scheduled meteors matched it size or beauty. I can find no one else who saw this meteor except Bill, his wife, and me.

    In the summer of 2008 Bill’s family lost their fifteen year old daughter to leukemia. Lauren was my daughters’ best friend. Like this meteor, she was full of energy and possessed an indelible presence, forever etched in our hearts.

    It’s good to read others witnessed this amazing meteor.

  21. Suzanne says:

    On December 12, 2009, around 5:45 pm, in Islip, NY, I saw a HUGE flaming ball that appeared to be within a mile of me. It was so close to the earth, and I was near an airport, so my friends and I thought maybe a plane went down. It was just too big, and too close for me to believe whatever it was didn’t crash land shortly thereafter.

%d bloggers like this: