Aug 14-23 Meteors

It’s been over a week since the peak of the Perseids and overall meteor activity has settled down. This is quite the norm after major showers since their period of high activity only lasts for a few days. It also doesn’t help that the Perseids ramp down more rapidly than they build up. Still background activity during the Summer and Fall is rather high. Much higher than it is during period from January to June when activity is at a low.

Here in Tucson, the monsoon took a break and we had a nice stretch of clear (or mostly clear) nights. About 2/3rds of the meteors these nights are Sporadics meaning they don’t belong to any known shower. A number of minor showers have been steady, yet weak, producers of meteors.

SAL 2015-08-23  05h 18m   15  7   1   4   1   1   -   1   -   0   0
SAL 2015-08-22  08h 25m   27  20  1   4   1   0   -   1   -   0   0
SAL 2015-08-21  09h 17m   21  9   2   3   3   0   -   1   1   2   0
SAL 2015-08-20  09h 35m   33  20  2   1   2   2   -   2   1   3   0
SAL 2015-08-19  08h 56m   34  19  4   5   1   1   -   1   3   0   0
SAL 2015-08-18  09h 31m   26  17  0   4   0   2   0   0   2   0   0
SAL 2015-08-17  05h 49m   12  5   1   3   0   0   0   1   2   0   0
SAL 2015-08-16  03h 36m   7   3   1   2   -   0   0   1   0   0   0
SAL 2015-08-15  07h 54m   45  19  3   18  -   0   1   2   2   0   0
SAL 2015-08-14  00h 00m            ---- Clouds/Rain ----

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
PER - Perseids
ORI - Orionids
SDA - Southern Delta Aquariids
COM - Southern Iota Aquariids
ERI - Eridanids
KCG - Kappa Cygnids
ATR - Alpha Triangulids
UCE - Upsilon Cetids
Oth - other minor showers

Meteor Activity Outlook for February 15-21, 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: Alpha Centaurids (ACE), Beta Herculids (BHE) and the Delta Serpentids (DSE).

Happy Perihelion Day, Comet PANSTARRS!

Today (March 10) at 4 hours UT (or GMT) comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) reached perihelion, or the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Sun. The time of perihelion passage corresponds with 9 pm on the night of March 9 for Tucson (MST -7 hours). At that time PANSTARRS was located at a distance of 0.302 AU from the Sun (28.0 million miles or 45.1 million km) which is ~3.3 times closer to the Sun than the Earth’s average distance and about 1 million km closer to the Sun than Mercury gets. On March 5 it also came as close to the Earth as it will get, a rather distant 1.097 AU (102.0 million miles or 164.1 million km). This is 10% further than the distance between the Earth and Sun.

As the comet rounds the Sun it is quickly heading north. After months of being only visible from south of the Equator, those of us up north will have the comet to ourselves starting this week. Already observers as far north as New Jersey (latitude 40°) have reported seeing the comet. Here in Tucson I tried to find the comet last week but it was still too deep in the bright twilight to see. Now that a recent bout of rain and clouds has moved through I will try again this evening.

The video below by Jay Lawson from Sparks, Nevada (latitude 39.5°) shows what the comet looks like in a small telescope or pair of binoculars (note the video is in black and white so it doesn’t show the true color of the comet and sky).

Another video from Brisbane, Australia back on Feb. 23 gives a good idea of what the comet will look like to naked eye observers. Please note that even though the comet is a very bright magnitude 1.5 and this does place it among some of the brighter comets of the past, it is not an easy object to see. If it were located high up in the night sky it would be unmistakable with a tail many degrees long to the naked eye. Such a well placed comet would even be visible under bright city lights. But Comet PANSTARRS is not located up high in a dark sky but rather close to the horizon against a bright twilight sky. By the time the sky is dark the comet will either have set or will be only a few degrees above the horizon.

Bob King has a great post about PANSTARRS on his blog Astro Bob. He highlights one of the problems of spotting a comet so close to the horizon, especially one in the western sky near the just set Sun. Many reports of PANSTARRS have actually been of distant aircraft contrails. His posting shows the different appearances of the comet versus plane contrails.

Bob also has a nice post with finder charts for locating the comet over the next few weeks.

Live Interview on Comet 168P/Hergenrother

In 15 minutes (5 pm PDT, 6pm MDT, 7pm CDT, 8pm EDT) I will be interviews by Peter Lake and the guys at The interview will be carried live on Youtube. I’ll post the link and try to embed the video below.

Venus and Jupiter Put on an Early Morning Show

[Editor’s note: I notice that lots of people are still finding this now a few years old post. If you are trying to find out what those bright stars in the eastern morning sky are (Sep/Oct 2015), go to the front page of this blog at for the latest posts.]

I see there have been lots of searches recently about the 2 bright ‘stars’ in the early morning eastern sky.

The show is being put on by the planets Venus (the brighter and lower one) and Jupiter. Also in line with the two is the Pleiades open star cluster (above the 2 planets) and Aldebaran , the brightest star in Taurus (below the two planets). The two planets will spend the next few weeks close together. On the morning of July 15 a thin crescent Moon will add even more to the show.

So for all of you early risers out there who have been watching these two, congratulations. As for the rest of us (myself included), set your clocks for an hour before sunrise, find a clear view of the eastern horizon and enjoy the show.


A chart of Venus and Jupiter an hour or so before sunrise on the morning of 2012 June 30. Credit: Carl Hergenrother/Stellarium.

SWAN Sungrazer Now In SOHO C2 Field

The newly discovered Comet SWAN has now entered the LASCO C2 instrument field on the SOHO spacecraft. This field observes closer to the Sun than the C3 instrument.

The latest C2 images can be found here: .

The comet will probably not survive its encounter with the Sun. As a result, it should begin to fade out any hour now.

May 22/23/24/25 Meteors

Video meteor rates have varied by a factor of 3 over the past 3 nights. Each night was clear though the low rates on the night of May 22/23 may have been due to lots of wind-blown dust in the air. The night of May 23/24 was a late start. I was so caught up in the LOST finale that I almost forgot to turn on my camera.

With no confirmed showers active this week, most of the meteors have been sporadics with the occasional antihelion. Rates should be suppressed over the next week as the bright Moon enters the morning sky.

I changed the theme (format and background) of the blog yet again. The current theme is very similar to the previous one. Its advantages are the easy-to-use category tags at the top of the blog and increased readability.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT
TUS  2010-05-25   08h01m    14  13  1
TUS  2010-05-24   04h06m    9   8   1
TUS  2010-05-23   07h24m    5   4   1

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 - Antihelion