Dec 23/24 to Jan 1/2 Meteors

Hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday season.

The past week has seen rather low meteor activity with the bright Moon has helped to keep meteor counts low. Also there weren’t too many active showers with only the December Leonis Minorids producing consistent, if low, activity.

This should all change tonight when the Quadrantid meteor shower peaks. This is actually one of the better showers yet it is notoriously difficult to observe. For starters, it is located at a high northern declination which makes it impossible to see from most of the Southern Hemisphere. Even for northern observers, the time of peak intensity is vitally important. Unlike the Geminids, Orionids and Perseids which have broad peaks and produce high meteor numbers for a few days, the Quadrantids have a very sharp peak. So unless you are observing within hours of its peak, meteor numbers may be much lower than expected.

Last year the peak was perfectly timed for observers in North America and ZHR rates as high as 160 per hour were reported. From my moderately light polluted skies, I observed ~60 per hour. This year the peak is predicted for Jan 3 at ~19 hours UT. That’s 6+ hours after sunrise from North America. Based on last year’s activity profile the ZHR rate will be in the 40-80 per hour range. Unfortunately the bright Moon is poorly placed for meteor watching this time and the actual rates will be much lower. Add the fact that most observers are located under skies with some amount of light pollution and actual observable rates may only be in the 5-15 per hour range.

Bob’s notes from the night of Jan 1/2 : “After a cloudy day the clouds began thinning during the evening hours. I was able to start the camera shortly after 2300 PST. Skies remained clear the remainder of the night. Morning meteor activity was significantly weaker than what was observed on the previous night. Despite being only one day before maximum, the Quadrantids are barely showing any signs of life.”

… for the night of Dec 31/ Jan 1 : “The sky was clear most of the night except for a few wisps of high clouds that drifted by during the late morning hours. Despite the light from the full moon, meteor rates were decent throughout the night.”

… for the night of Dec 30/31 : “I woke to clear skies after a cloudy and wet evening. I figured that a small sample of the night’s activity was better than nothing!”

… for the night of Dec 29/30 : “After a couple of days of clouds the skies cleared tonight. The timing was perfect as more clouds arrived at dawn and did not affect observations. Rates were reduced due to the bright moon but the transparent skies still made observations worthwhile.”

… for the night of Dec 26/27 : “Clouds prevented observations during the early evening hours. I noticed the sky had cleared at 23:00 PST so I started the camera shortly thereafter. The sky remained clear until near 4:00am PST (12UT) when a thick layer of cirrus moved in from the west. This greatly reduced the observed activity during the final 1.83 hours of observations.”

… for the night of Dec 25/26 : “Meteor activity was a bit more uniform tonight. Totals were nearly identical to the previous two nights. It was mostly clear except for some cirrus and cumulus clouds toward the end of the session.”

… for the night of Dec 24/25 : “It was another strange night for meteor activity. There was some cirrus present as dusk but they were thin and soon dissipated. Despite the clear skies evening rates were very low, beyond the effect of the first quarter moon. Once again the morning hours saw variable rates under clear skies. A full third of the entire night’s activity occurred between 11-12 UT (3-4am PST).”

… for the night of Dec 23/24 : “It was clear until 1100 UT (3:00 AM PST) when cirrus clouds began to drift over. Rates were compromised the remainder of the session.”

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT DLM AHY JLE QUA
TUS  2010-01-02   12h 08m   6   5   0   0   1   0   0
SDG  2010-01-02   06h 32m   20  16  0   3   0   0   1
TUS  2010-01-01   11h 31m   8   7   0   0   0   0   1
SDG  2010-01-01   11h 49m   39  33  2   0   3   0   1
TUS  2009-12-31   01h 51m   4   3   0   1   0   0   -
SDG  2009-12-31   01h 45m   6   6   0   0   0   0   -
TUS  2009-12-30   05h 30m   2   2   0   0   -   -   -
SDG  2009-12-30   11h 36m   33  28  4   1   0   -   -
TUS  2009-12-29   00h 10m   1   1   0   0   -   -   -
SDG  2009-12-29   00h 00m   Clouds all night
TUS  2009-12-28   11h 30m   1   1   0   0   -   -   -
SDG  2009-12-28   00h 00m   Clouds all night
TUS  2009-12-27   11h 29m   15  9   2   4   -   -   -
SDG  2009-12-27   06h 45m   25  19  4   2   -   -   -
TUS  2009-12-26   11h 28m   15  11  0   4   -   -   -
SDG  2009-12-26   11h 44m   43  39  3   1   -   -   -
TUS  2009-12-25   11h 29m   11  8   0   3   -   -   -
SDG  2009-12-25   12h 05m   42  36  1   5   -   -   -
TUS  2009-12-24   08h 09m   11  3   4   4   -   -   -
SDG  2009-12-24   12h 05m   42  32  6   4   -   -   -

TUS - Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime - 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
DLM - December Leonis Minorids
AHY - Alpha Hydrids
JLE - January Leonids
QUA - Quadrantids

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

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