Meteor Activity Outlook for March 5-11, 2011

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.

March is the slowest month for meteor activity. No major annual showers are active and only two very weak minor showers produce activity this month. The sporadic rates continue a slow decline as seen from the mid-northern latitudes and mid-southern rates reach a first half minimum. There is not much to look forward to this month expect for the evening fireballs that seem to peak this time of year from the northern hemisphere. This could be due to the fact the antiapex radiant lies highest above the horizon this time of year during the evening hours.

During this period the moon waxes from a thin crescent to nearly one-half illuminated. During this entire period the moon will only be in the evening sky and will not interfere with the more active morning hours. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near three as seen from the northern hemisphere and four as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near ten from the northern hemisphere and fourteen as seen from south of the equator. 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 slightly reduced for the evening hours 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 March 5/6. 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 11:52 (178) +00. This area of the sky lies in western Virgo, only one degree south of the fourth magnitude star Zavijava (Beta Virginis). 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 eastern Leo, southern Coma Berenices, Sextans, Crater, Corvus, or Virgo could be a candidate for this shower. Rates at this time should be near two per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of medium-slow speed.

Gamma Normids (GNO)

The Gamma Normids (GNO) is a weak shower best seen from the southern hemisphere. This shower is only visible south of forty degrees north latitude. The further one is located south (down to 50S) the better the radiant is situated in the sky. Expected rates from the southern hemisphere is currently near one per hour, even with the radiant located high in the sky. The current radiant position lies at 16:04 (241) -52. This position lies in central Norma, three degrees southwest of the fourth magnitude star Gamma Normae. The radiant is best placed during the last dark hour before dawn, when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. At 56km/sec. the Gamma Normids would produce mostly swift meteors.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately eight 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 eleven 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           11h 52m  +00    30     2     2
GNO Gamma Normids         16h 04m  -52    56    <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