Meteor Activity Outlook for October 20-26, 2012

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.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active all month long with many minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are the big story of the month reaching maximum activity on the 22nd. This display can be seen equally well from both hemispheres which definitely helps out observers located in the sporadic-poor southern hemisphere this time of year.

During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Sunday October 21st. At this time the moon is located ninety degrees east of the sun and well set near 2300 (11pm) local daylight time (LDT). As the week progresses the waxing gibbous moon will set later and later in the morning, interfering with meteor observing. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near three for observers located at mid-northern latitudes and two for observers in mid-southern latitudes. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near thirty eight from the mid-northern hemisphere and twenty seven from the mid-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. Rates during the evening hours are reduced this week 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 October 20/21. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The following radiants are expected to be active this week:

The Northern Taurids (NTA) are now active from a large radiant centered at 02:40 (040) +19, which lies in central Aries, eight degrees southeast of the second magnitude star Hamal (Alpha Arietis). The radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight time (LDT), when it lies highest above the horizon. Maximum activity is not expected until November 13, so current rates would be 1-2 per hour, no matter your location. Meteors from the Northern Taurids strike the atmosphere at 29km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity.  You must face in the general direction of the north and south Taurid radiants in order to tell them apart.

The Southern Taurid (STA) radiant is currently located at 02:48 (042) +11. This position lies near on the Cetus/Aries border, very close the the fourth magnitude star Mu Ceti. This radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight time (LDT), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Maximum occurred on October 9th, so rates would now be near two per hour when the radiant lies high in the sky. With an entry velocity of 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor would be of slow velocity.

The Orionids (ORI) reach maximum activity on mornings of October 21st and 22nd. The radiant is currently located at 06:20 (095) +16, which is in the northeastern Orion, four degrees west of the second magnitude star Alhena (Gamma Geminorum). The radiant is best placed for viewing near 0500 when it lies on the meridian and is highest above the horizon. At this time of night one should be able to count at least 20 shower members per hour from rural locations. Good rates can actually be seen any time during the morning hours. Orionid meteors are equally well seen either side of the equator. With an entry velocity of 67 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift. This display does not have a sharp peak so activity seen after moon set after the 22nd should be good. Unfortunately the moon will begin to interfere late in the week.

The Epsilon Geminids (EGE) are active all month long with low hourly rates. Even at maximum activity only three shower members per hour are expected. Recent research by the IMO has indicated an earlier maximum of October 15th, rather than October 19th. The radiant position is currently located at 06:56 (104) +28. This position lies in northern Gemini, four degrees northeast of the fourth magnitude star Mebsuta (Epsilon Geminorum). The radiant is also best placed during the last dark hour before dawn, when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Rates would be near two per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and less than one per hour as seen south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 70 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift.

The Leonis Minorids (LMI) are active from October 16-27 with maximum activity occurring on October 23rd. This radiant is currently located at 10:36 (159) +37, which places it in northeast Leo Minor, four degrees northeast of the fourth magnitude star Beta Leonis Minoris . The radiant is best placed just before dawn when it lies highest in a dark sky. This shower is better situated for observers situated in the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises far higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. At 60km/sec., the average Leonis Minorid is swift.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately ten 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 five per hour as seen from rural observing sites and one per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Rates during the evening hours are reduced this week due to moonlight.

The list below presents a summary of the expected activity this week. Rates and
positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning, but may be used all week.

Northern Taurids (NTA) – 02:40 (040) +19   Velocity 29km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 2 per hr   Southern Hemisphere – 2 per hour

Southern Taurids (STA) -02:48 (042) +11   Velocity 29km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 2 per hr   Southern Hemisphere – 2 per hour

Orionids (ORI) 06:20 (095) +16   Velocity 67km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 20 per hr   Southern Hemisphere – 18 per hour

Epsilon Geminids (EGE) 06:56 (104) +28   Velocity 70km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 2 per hr   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

Leonis Minorids (LMI) – 10:36 (159) +37   Velocity 60km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 2 per hr   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

Clear Skies!
Robert Lunsford
American Meteor Society

Meteor Activity Outlook for October 13-19, 2012

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.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active all month long with many minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are the big story of the month reaching maximum activity on the 22nd. This display can be seen equally well from both hemispheres which definitely helps out observers located in the sporadic-poor southern hemisphere this time of year.

During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Monday October 15th. At this time the moon is located near the sun and is invisible at night. As the week progresses the waxing crescent moon will enter the evening sky but will not interfere with meteor observing. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near four for observers located at mid-northern latitudes and three for observers in mid-southern latitudes. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near twenty from the mid-northern hemisphere and thirteen from the mid-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 (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning October 13/14. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The following radiants are expected to be active this week:

The center of the large Southern Taurid (STA) radiant is currently located at 02:24 (036) +10. This position lies near on the Cetus/Aries border. The fourth magnitude star Xi 2 Ceti lies two degrees southeast from the center of the radiant. The radiant is so large that Southern Taurid activity may also appear from eastern Pisces, Aries, northern Cetus, northern Eridanus, and western Taurus. This radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight time (LDT), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Maximum occurred on October 9th, but rates remain near maximum levels of three per hour for a week after this date. With an entry velocity of 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor would be of slow velocity.

The Orionids (ORI) are producing 3-5 shower members per hour during the last few hours before dawn, when the radiant lies highest in the sky. The radiant is currently located at 06:00 (090) +16, which is in the northeastern Orion, eight degrees northwest of the brilliant first magnitude orange star Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis). Orionid meteors are equally well seen either side of the equator. With an entry velocity of 67 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift. Maximum activity is predicted to occur on the 22nd when hourly rates should be near twenty.

The Epsilon Geminids (EGE) are active all month long with low hourly rates. Even at maximum activity only three shower members per hour are expected. Recent research by the IMO has indicated an earlier maximum of October 15th, rather than October 19th. The radiant position is currently located at 06:27 (097) +29. This position actually lies within the borders of Auriga, just east of the faint star Kappa Aurigae. The radiant is also best placed during the last dark hour before dawn, when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Rates would be near two per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and less than one per hour as seen south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 70 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift.

Studies of the IMO’s video database by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel has revealed a radiant active in Lynx this time of year. Earlier visual observations of this activity placed the radiant in eastern Auriga. Therefore the radiant is known as the Psi Aurigids (PSA). This radiant is active from October 8-18, with maximum activity occurring on the 12th. The radiant drift is not well established as positions jump around quite a bit during its ten day activity period. At maximum the radiant is located at 07:36 (113) +47. This position lies in a remote area of central Lynx. The nearest bright star is second magnitude Castor (Alpha Geminorum), which lies fifteen degrees to the south. This is a weak display and even at maximum activity rates would most likely be less than one shower member per hour, no matter you location. With an entry velocity of 68 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift.

Studies of the IMO’s video database by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel has also revealed a radiant active in Ursa Major this time of year. The October Ursae Majorids (OCU). are active from October 15-20, with maximum activity occurring on the 16th. At maximum the radiant is located at 09:36 (144) +65. This position lies in western Ursa Major, near the faint star 23 Ursae Majoris. This area of the sky is best placed during the last hour before morning twilight, when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. At maximum activity rates would most likely be 1-2 per hour. Due to the high northern location of this radiant, these meteors are not well seen from the southern hemisphere. With an entry velocity of 54km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be medium-swift.

The Leonis Minorids (LMI) are active from October 16-27 with maximum activity occurring on October 23rd. Hourly rates would be less than one this week. This radiant is currently located at 10:16 (154) +38, which places it in northern Leo Minor, two degrees northwest of the fourth magnitude star Beta Leonis Minoris . The radiant is best placed just before dawn when it lies highest in a dark sky. This shower is better situated for observers situated in the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises far higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. At 60km/sec., the average Leonis Minorid is swift.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately ten sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near three per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near five per hour as seen from rural observing sites and two per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures.

The list below presents a summary of the expected activity this week. Rates and
positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning, but may be used all week.

Southern Taurids (STA) – 02:24 (036) +10   Velocity 29km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 3 per hr   Southern Hemisphere – 3 per hour

Orionids (ORI) 06:00 (090) +16   Velocity 67km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 4 per hr    Southern Hemisphere – 4 per hour

Epsilon Geminids (EGE) 06:27 (097) +29   Velocity 70km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 2 per hr   Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

Psi Aurigids (PSA) 07:36 (114) +47 Velocity 68km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

October Ursae Majorids (OCU)  – 09:36 (144) +65   Velocity 54km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 1 per hr Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

Leonis Minorids (LMI)  – 10:16 (154) +38   Velocity 60km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour

Clear Skies!
Robert Lunsford
American Meteor Society

 

Oct 23-30 Meteors

The last week of October witnessed a gradual decrease in meteor rates. Much of the slow-down was due to the Orionids being past their peak. Also the Taurids are past their peak as well.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO NTA STA ORI EGE LMI SSA OUI ETT BCN
TUS  2011-10-30   10h 40m   30  21  2   2   4   -   -   -   -   1   0
TUS  2011-10-29   04h 38m   25  13  0   4   8   -   -   -   -   0   0
TUS  2011-10-28   09h 30m   43  17  5   3   15  -   -   -   1   1   1
TUS  2011-10-27   09h 52m   64  23  1   5   31  2   1   -   0   2   0
TUS  2011-10-26   11h 16m   52  17  1   2   25  3   1   -   0   0   3
TUS  2011-10-25   09h 52m   54  16  1   4   28  1   2   -   0   0   2
TUS  2011-10-24   10h 41m   66  19  2   3   38  2   0   1   0   1   -
TUS  2011-10-23   10h 05m   66  18  1   3   43  0   1   0   0   -   -

SAL3 - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
ALLS - Near all-sky camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIST - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VISH - Visual observations from Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
HERM - PARENI camera in Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
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)
NTA - Northern Taurids 
STA - Southern Taurids 
ORI - Orionids 
EGE - Epsilon Geminids 
LMI - Leo Minorids
SSA - Sigma Arietids
OUI - October Ursa Minorids
ETT - Eta Taurids
BCN - Beta Cancrids

Oct 17-24 Meteors

The past week witnessed the annual peak of the Orionid meteor shower. The Orionids are the result of dust created by Comet Halley over 2000-3000 years ago. Visual observers recorded peak ZHRs of only 20-25 meteors per hour. This is less than the peak from the last three years with rates of 30-50 per hour and a huge step down from 2007 when rates as high as 70 per hour were seen.

Unfortunately I missed most of the shower. For three nights was observing some of the objects that create meteor showers rather than the shower itself. The plan was to leave my meteor camera in auto mode but things didn’t work out that way. As a result my system missed three nights of the Orionid peak. I’ll have to figure out how to prevent this in the future.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO NTA STA ORI TUM EGE LMI
TUS  2011-10-24   10h 41m   66  21  2   3   38  -   2   0
TUS  2011-10-23   10h 05m   66  17  2   3   43  -   0   1
TUS  2011-10-22   10h 07m   76  18  4   3   48  -   1   2
TUS  2011-10-21   00h 00m   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -
TUS  2011-10-20   00h 00m   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -
TUS  2011-10-19   00h 00m   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -
TUS  2011-10-18   10h 07m   48  18  2   5   20  1   2   -
TUS  2011-10-17   09h 52m   29  16  3   1   7   0   2   -

SAL3 - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
ALLS - Near all-sky camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIST - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VISH - Visual observations from Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
HERM - PARENI camera in Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
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)
NTA - Northern Taurids 
STA - Southern Taurids 
ORI - Orionids 
TUM - Tau Ursa Majorids 
EGE - Epsilon Geminids
LMI - Leo Minorids

Meteor Activity Outlook for October 12-28, 2011

Sorry, I’m a few days late posting this…

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.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active most of the month along with many minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are the big story of the month reaching maximum activity on the 22nd. This display can be seen equally well from both hemispheres which definitely helps out observers located in the sporadic-poor southern hemisphere this time of year.

During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Wednesday October 26th. At this time the moon will lie near the sun and will be invisible at night. This weekend the waning crescent moon will rise during the late morning hours and will not interfere with meteor observing. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near four as seen from the northern hemisphere and three as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near thirty three as seen from mid-northern latitudes and twenty eight from mid-southern latitudes. 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 (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning October 22/23. 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:

A new radiant has been discovered by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel in Draco which is active during this period. The October Ursa Minorids (OUI) are active from October 16-28, with maximum occurring on the 24th. The current radiant position lies at 18:18 (275) +75. This position lies in eastern Draco two degrees north of the faint star Chi Draconis. Older radiant positions were a bit further west in Ursa Minor.  The radiant is best placed just as soon as it becomes dark, when it lies highest in a dark sky. Meteors from the October Ursa Minorids strike the atmosphere at 28km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be less than one per hour, as seen from the northern hemisphere. Activity from this shower is not visible in the southern hemisphere due to the high northerly location of the radiant.

The Northern Taurids (NTA) are now active from a large radiant centered at 02:48 (042) +20, which lies in central Aries, six degrees west of the fourth magnitude star Delta Arietis. The radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight time (LDT), when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Northern Taurids strike the atmosphere at 29km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be near two per hour, no matter your location.

The center of the Southern Taurid (STA) radiant now lies 02:51 (043) +11. This position lies on the Aries/Cetus border, three degrees east of the fourth magnitude star Mu Ceti. The radiant is best placed near the meridian at 0200 LDT, but activity may be seen all night long. Striking the atmosphere at 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor travels slowly through the skies. Rates should be near two per hour no matter your location.

A new radiant has been discovered in Taurus which is active during this period. The Eta Taurids (ETT) are active from October 24 through November 3, with maximum occurring on the 24th. At maximum, the  radiant position lies at 03:42 (056) +24, which lies in western Taurus in the area of sky occupied by the famous Pleiades star cluster. The radiant is best placed near 0300 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Eta Taurids strike the atmosphere at 47km/sec., which would produce meteors of average velocity. Expected rates would be less than one per hour, no matter your location.

The Orionids (ORI) reach maximum activity on morning of October 22nd. Rates are expected to peak between 10-20 shower members per hour on that morning. Moonlight from the waning crescent moon will reduce activity slightly. The radiant is currently located at 06:28 (97) +16. This position lies in western Gemini, close to the second magnitude star Alhena (Gamma Geminorum). The radiant is best placed near 0500 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. At 67km/sec., the average Orionid is swift.

The Epsilon Geminids (EGE) are active from October 16th through the 27th. Maximum activity occurred on the 19th. The radiant is currently located at 07:02 (105) +27. This position lies in central Gemini, three degrees northeast of the third magnitude star Epsilon Geminorum. This position is also close to the Orionid radiant so care must taken for correct shower association, especially since they have similar velocities. The Orionids will be more numerous. Current rates are near one per hour. The radiant is best placed near 0600 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. At 70km/sec., the average Epsilon Geminid is swift.

Recent studies by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel have revealed a radiant in Canis Minor that is active this time of year. Old radiant positions placed it within the borders of Cancer. The Beta Cancrids (BCN) are active from October 25 through November 3, with maximum occurring on the 27th. The radiant position at maximum lies at 07:22 (111) -06, which lies in southwestern Canis Minor, three degrees west of the brilliant zero magnitude star Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris. The radiant is best placed near 0600 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon.Meteors from the Beta Cancrids strike the atmosphere at 65km/sec., which would produce meteors of swift velocity. Expected rates would be less than one per hour, no matter your location.

The Leonis Minorids (LMI) are active from October 16-27 with maximum activity occurring on October 23rd. ZHR’s are usually low but the radiant is far removed from the Orionids and Epsilon Geminids so that any possible shower members should be easily identified. Hourly rates should be near one this weekend. This radiant is currently located at 10:43 (161) +36, which places it in northeastern Leo Minor, two degrees east of the fourth magnitude star Beta Leonis Minoris . The radiant is best placed just before dawn when it lies highest in a dark sky. This shower is better situated for observers situated in the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises far higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. At 60km/sec., the average Leonis Minorid is swift.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately ten sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near three per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near five per hour as seen from rural observing sites and two 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
OUI Oct Ursa Minorids     18h 18m  +75    28    <1    <1
NTA Northern Taurids      02h 48m  +20    29     2     2
STA Southern Taurids      02h 51m  +11    27     2     2 
ETT Eta Taurids           03h 42m  +24    47    <1    <1 
ORI Orionids              06h 28m  +16    61    15    15
EGE Epsilon Geminids      07h 02m  +27    70     1     1
BCN Beta Cancrids         07h 22m  -06    65    <1    <1
LMI Leo Minorids          10h 43m  +36    60     2     2

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

Oct 10-16 Meteors

The big story of the past week is the gradual increase in rates of the Orionids (ORI). With its peak predicted for the 21st, rates should really jump over the next night or two. Unlike most major showers which experience peak rates over the course of a night or two, the Orionids can stay near peak strength for 4-5 nights.

Below are the best video meteors of the past week.

Nice Southern Taurid (STA) shooting to the north on 2011 Oct 10 @ 10:05 UT.

Sporadic (SPO) from 2011 Oct 10 @ 10:57 UT.

Another Sporadic (SPO) from 2011 Oct 14 @ 03:41 UT.

Northern Taurid (NTA) from 2011 Oct 14 @ 05:51 UT.

Sporadic (SPO) on 2011 Oct 16 @ 07:10 UT.

Early Orionid (ORI) from 2011 Oct 16 @ 08:08 UT.

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO NTA STA ORI DAU GIA EPC TUM EGE
TUS  2011-10-16   09h 24m   41  17  1   8  10   -   -   -   3   2
TUS  2011-10-15   10h 57m   19  10  0   3   4   -   -   -   1   1
TUS  2011-10-14   10h 55m   24  16  3   1   4   -   -   -   0   0
TUS  2011-10-13   08h 13m   30  16  3   3   5   -   -   -   0   -
TUS  2011-10-12   10h 00m   34  25  1   5   3   -   -   0   0   -
TUS  2011-10-11   09h 58m   28  21  2   2   3   -   -   0   -   -
TUS  2011-10-10   10h 12m   31  21  2   4   1   3   0   0   -   -

SAL3 - SALSA3 camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
ALLS - Near all-sky camera in Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VIST - Visual observations from Tucson (Carl Hergenrother)
VISH - Visual observations from Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
HERM - PARENI camera in Hermosillo (Salvador Aguirre)
SDG - Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
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)
NTA - Northern Taurids 
STA - Southern Taurids 
ORI - Orionids
DAU - Delta Aurigids 
GIA - Draconids 
EPC - October Eta Piscids 
TUM - Tau Ursa Majorids 
EGE - Epsilon Geminids

Meteor Activity Outlook for October 23-29, 2010

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.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active most of the month along with several minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are usually the big story of the month but this year the Orionid peak coincides with the full moon, which will severely reduce the number of meteors seen. Orionid activity can be seen before and after maximum when the moon is not so troublesome. Unfortunately on these nights the Orionid rates will be low, most likely less than five per hour.

During this period the moon is full on the 23rd and wanes toward last quarter, which is reached on the 30th. The bright moon will make observing meteors difficult as only the brightest ones can be seen in the lunar glare. Those viewing under transparent skies will have better success as the moonlight will be less scattered. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near four from the northern hemisphere and two for observers south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near twelve from the northern hemisphere and nine 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. Rates are reduced this week due to lunar interference.

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 October 23/24. 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. The detailed descriptions will be continued next week when the moonlight is not as intense.

Shower Name                 RA     DEC   Vel     Rates
                                         km/s   NH    SH
OUI October Ursa Minorids 18h 12m  +74    28    <1    <1
NTA Northern Taurids      02h 52m  +20    29     1    <1
STA Southern Taurids      02h 32m  +11    30     2     2
ETT Eta Taurids           04h 00m  +24    47    <1    <1
ORI Orionids              06h 32m  +16    67     5     5
EGE Epsilon Geminids      07h 04m  +27    70    <1    <1
BCN Beta Cancrids         07h 12m  -03    65    <1    <1
LMI Leonis Minorids       10h 48m  +36    60    <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

Meteor Activity Outlook for October 16-22, 2010

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.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active most of the month along with several minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are usually the big story of the month but this year the Orionid peak coincides with the full moon, which will severely reduce the number of meteors seen. Orionid activity can be seen before and after maximum when the moon is not so troublesome. Unfortunately on these nights the Orionid rates will be low, most likely less than five per hour.

During this period the moon waxes from just past its first quarter phase to nearly full at the end of the period. This weekend the waxing gibbous moon will set during the early morning hours and will allow a couple of hours of dark skies before the beginning of twilight. This window of opportunity will shrink as the week progresses becoming essentially zero by the end of the week. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near three from the northern hemisphere and two for observers south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near twenty four from the northern hemisphere and twelve 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. Evening rates are reduced this week due to lunar interference.

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 October 16/17. 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:

October Ursa Minorids (OUI)

Studies of the IMO video database by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel has revealed a radiant located in Draco this time of year. Earlier visual observations placed the radiant in Ursa Minor therefore this shower is known as the October Ursa Minorids (OUI). This shower is active from October 16-28 with maximum occurring on the 24th. The moon will greatly hamper observations of this shower, especially near maximum on the 24th. On Saturday evening the radiant is located at 18:44 (281) +76. This position lies in western Draco some fifteen degrees south (above) Polaris (Alpha Ursae Minoris). Although the radiant is circumpolar (never sets) for most of the northern hemisphere, it is best placed as soon as it becomes dark. Striking the atmosphere at 28 km/sec., the average October Ursa Minorid meteor travels medium-slow through the sky. This shower is best seen from high northern latitudes. It is almost impossible to see from the southern hemisphere. Even at maximum, rates should be less than one per hour no matter your location.

Northern Taurids (NTA)

Recent studies of the IMO video database has revealed that activity from the Northern Taurids (NTA) does not begin until October 19th. This is nearly one month after pervious published dates. Maximum activity does not occur until November 13th so current rates will be low, lower than its southern counterpart until late in the month. The current radiant position lies near 02:28 (037) +18, which is located in central Aries, six degrees southeast of the second magnitude star Hamal (Alpha Arietis). The radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight time (LDT), when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Northern Taurids strike the atmosphere at 29km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be near one per hour, no matter your location.

Southern Taurids (STA)

The center of the large Southern Taurid (STA) radiant lies at 02:32 (038) +10. This position lies on the Aries/Cetus border, three degrees west of the fourth magnitude star Mu Ceti. Since the radiant is so large, any meteor from eastern Pisces, northeastern Cetus, Aries, western Taurus, or northeastern Eridanus could be a candidate for this shower. The radiant is best placed near the meridian near 0200 LDT, but activity may be seen all night long. Although maximum activity occurred on the 10th, this is a flat plateau-like peak so activity should still be good this week. Expect to see up to three Southern Taurids per hour, no matter your location, when the radiant lies highest in the sky. Striking the atmosphere at 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor travels slowly through the skies. This shower is also responsible for many of the fireball reports seen in October.

Sigma Arietids (SSA)

Another shower derived from the IMO video database is the Sigma Arietids (SSA). This shower is active from October 12-19 with a peak on the 19th. The radiant is located at 03:16 (049) +22. This position lies in eastern Aries, four degrees northeast of the fourth magnitude star Delta Arietis. The radiant is best placed near 0300 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Rates should less than one per hour. With an entry velocity of 46 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be of medium velocity. These meteors are well seen from all but the polar regions of the Earth.

Zeta Taurids (ZTA)

Another shower derived from the IMO video database is the Zeta Taurids (ZTA). This shower is active from October 12-17 with a peak on the 16th. The radiant is located at 05:26 (081) +11. This position actually lies in Orion, three degrees northwest of the third magnitude star Lambda Orionis. The radiant is best placed near 0500 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Rates should less than one per hour. With an entry velocity of 61 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift. These meteors would be seen equally well from either hemisphere.

Orionids (ORI)

The Orionids (ORI) reach maximum activity on Friday October 22nd. Unfortunately a nearby full moon will spoil the display. The radiant is currently located at 06:08 (092) +16. This position lies in northeastern Orion, very close to the fourth magnitude star Nu Orionis. The radiant rises near 300 LDT and is best placed on the meridian near 0500. Current rates for all locations would be near three to five per hour as seen after midnight. At 67km/sec., the average Orionid is swift.

Epsilon Geminids (EGE)

The Epsilon Geminids (EGE) are active from October 16th through the 27th. Maximum activity occurs on the 19th. The radiant is currently located at 06:40 (100) +29. This position lies on the Gemini/Auriga border, four degrees northwest of the third magnitude star Mebsuta (Epsilon Geminorum). This position is also close to the Orionid radiant. Care must taken for correct shower association. The Orionids will be far more numerous. Current rates are probably near one per hour for the northern hemisphere and less than one as seen from south of the equator. The radiant is best placed near 0600 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. At 70km/sec., the average Epsilon Geminid is swift.

October  Ura Majorids (OCU)

Another shower derived from the IMO video database is the October Ursa Majorids (OCU). This shower is active from October 12-19 with a peak on the 15th. On the 12th the radiant is located at 09:52 (148) +63. This position lies in western Ursa Major, fifteen degrees west of the second magnitude star Dubhe (Alpha Ursae Majoris). The radiant is best placed during the last dark hour before dawn when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Rates should less than one per hour. With an entry velocity of 53 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be medium-swift. With the high northern declination of the radiant, these meteors are best seen from the northern hemisphere. It would be difficult to see any of this activity from locations south of the equator.

Leonis Minorids (LMI)

The Leonis Minorids (LMI) are active from October 16-27 with maximum activity occurring on October 23rd. ZHR’s are usually low but the radiant is far removed from the Orionids and Epsilon Geminids so that any possible shower members should be easily identified. Hourly rates would be less than one this week. This radiant is currently located at 10:16 (154) +35, which places it in northeastern Leo Minor, two degrees southwest of the fourth magnitude star Beta Leonis Minoris. The radiant is best placed just before dawn when it lies highest in a dark sky. This shower is better situated for observers situated in the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises far higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. At 60km/sec., the average Leonis Minorid is swift.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately fifteen 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 four per hour as seen from rural observing sites and one per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Evening rates are reduced due to moonlight.

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
OUI October Ursa Minorids 18h 44m  +76    28    <1    <1
NTA Northern Taurids      02h 28m  +18    29     1     1
STA Southern Taurids      02h 32m  +10    30     3     3
SSA Sigma Arietids        03h 16m  +22    46    <1    <1
ZTA Zeta Taurids          05h 26m  +11    61    <1    <1
ORI Orionids              06h 08m  +16    67     2     2
EGE Epsilon Geminids      06h 40m  +29    70     1    <1 
OCU October Ursa Majorids 09h 12m  +64    53     1    <1
LMI Leonis Minorids       10h 16m  +35    60    <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

Meteor Activity Outlook for October 24-30, 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.

Meteor activity in general increases in October when compared to September. A major shower (the Orionids) is active most of the month along with several minor showers. Both branches of the Taurids become more active as the month progresses, providing slow, graceful meteors to the nighttime scene. The Orionids are the big story of the month reaching maximum activity on the 22nd. This display can be seen equally well from both hemispheres which definitely helps out observers located in the sporadic-poor southern hemisphere this time of year.

During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Monday October 26th. On that date the moon lies ninety degrees east of the sun and sets near 0100 local daylight time (LDT), depending on your location. As the week progresses the waxing gibbous moon sets later in the morning, lessening the window of opportunity to view meteor activity in a dark sky. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is ~5 as seen from the northern hemisphere and ~2 from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be ~25 from the northern hemisphere and ~15 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. Evening rates are reduced by moonlight.

The radiant positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning October 24/25. 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.

October Ursa Minorids (OUI)

A new radiant has been discovered in Ursa Minor which is active during this period. The October Ursa Minorids (OUI) are active from October 16-28, with maximum occurring on the 24th. The current radiant position lies at 18:09 (272) +74. This position lies in eastern Draco near the faint star Chi Draconis. The radiant is best placed just as soon as it becomes dark, when it lies highest in a dark sky. Meteors from the October Ursa Minorids strike the atmosphere at 28km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be < 1 per hour, as seen from the northern hemisphere. Activity from this shower is not visible in the southern hemisphere due to the high northerly location of the radiant.

Northern Taurids (NTA)

The Northern Taurids (NTA) are active from a large radiant centered at 02:52 (043) +20, which lies in central Aries, five degrees west of the fourth magnitude star Delta Arietis. The radiant is best placed near 0200 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Northern Taurids strike the atmosphere at 29km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be ~1 per hour, no matter your location.

Southern Taurids (STA)

The center of the large Southern Taurid (STA) radiant lies at 02:58 (044) +11. This position lies on the Aries/Cetus border, three degrees east of the fourth magnitude star Mu Ceti. The radiant is best placed near the meridian at 0200 LDT, but activity may be seen all night long. Striking the atmosphere at 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor travels slowly through the skies. Rates should be ~2 per hour no matter your location.

Eta Taurids (ETT)

A new radiant has been discovered in Taurus which is active during this period. The Eta Taurids (ETT) are active from October 25 through November 3, with maximum occurring on the 25th. The current radiant position lies at 03:42 (056) +24, which lies in western Taurus in the area of sky occupied by the famous Pleiades star cluster. The radiant is best placed near 0300 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Meteors from the Eta Taurids strike the atmosphere at 47km/sec., which would produce meteors of average  velocity. Expected rates would be < 1 per hour, no matter your location.

Orionids (ORI)

The Orionids (ORI) reached maximum activity on the nights of October 21 and 22. Rates are now falling and will do so until the last Orionids are seen near November 14. The radiant is currently located at 06:34 (98) +16. This position lies in western Gemini very close to the second magnitude star Alhena (Gamma Geminorum). The radiant is best placed near 0530 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Current rates would be ~5 per hour. At 66km/sec., the average Orionid is swift.

Epsilon Geminids (EGE)

The Epsilon Geminids (EGE) are active from October 16th through the 27th. Maximum activity occurred on the 19th. The radiant is currently located at 07:09 (107) +27. This position lies in central Gemini, three degrees south of the fourth magnitude star Tau Geminorum. This position is also close to the Orionid radiant so care must taken for correct shower association, especially since they have similar velocities. The Orionids will be more numerous. Current rates are most likely less than one per hour. The radiant is best placed near 0600 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. At 70km/sec., the average Epsilon Geminid is swift.

Beta Cancrids (BCN)

Recent studies by Sirko Molau has revealed a radiant in Cancer that is active this time of year. The Beta Cancrids (BCN) are active from October 25 through November 3, with maximum occurring on the 27th. The current radiant position lies at 07:16 (109) -09, which lies in southwestern Canis Minor, seven degrees southwest of the brilliant zero magnitude star Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris. The radiant is best placed near 0600 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon.Meteors from the Beta Cancrids strike the atmosphere at 65km/sec., which would produce meteors of swift velocity. Expected rates would be < 1 per hour, no matter your location.

Leonis Minorids (LMI)

The Leonis Minorids (LMI) are active from October 16-27 with maximum activity occurring on October 23rd. ZHR’s are usually low but the radiant is far removed from the Orionids and Epsilon Geminids so that any possible shower members should be easily identified. Hourly rates should be near one this weekend. This radiant is currently located at 10:52 (163) +36, which places it in northeastern Leo Minor, just northwest of the fourth magnitude star 46 Leonis Minoris. The radiant is best placed just before dawn when it lies highest in a dark sky. This shower is better situated for observers situated in the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises far higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. At 60km/sec., the average Leonis Minorid is swift.

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 near ~3 per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near ~5 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and ~1 per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Rates are reduced during the morning hours due to moonlight.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning except for showers of short duration, when the position on the night of maximum is listed.

Shower Name               RA   DEC Vel    Rates
                                   km/s  NH   SH
OUI Oct Ursa Minorids   18h09m +74  28    1    1
NTA Northern Taurids    02h52m +20  29   <1   <1
STA Southern Taurids    02h58m +11  29    2    2
ETT Eta Taurids         03h42m +24  47   <1   <1
ORI Orionids            06h34m +16  67    5    5
EGE Epsilon Geminids    06h44m +28  70   <1   <1
BCN Beta Cancrids       07h16m -09  65   <1   <1
LMI Leonis Minorids     10h52m +36  60   <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

In The Sky This Month – October 2008

This feature highlights a number of meteor showers, comets and asteroids which are visible during the month of October 2008.

Planets

Venus is the very bright “star” close to the southwestern horizon for an hour or so after sunset. When it is above the horizon, it is the brightest “star” in the sky.

Jupiter is located in the constellation of Sagittarius. At the beginning of the month, Jupiter starts the night almost due south in the southern part of the sky. As the night progresses, it slowly moves to the west and sets around 11 pm local time. By Halloween, Jupiter starts the night low in the southwestern sky and sets around 9 pm. Jupiter is fainter than Venus but brighter than any star.

Saturn is located low in the east just before sunrise. It is as bright as many of the brightest stars.

Mercury is too close to the Sun at the beginning of the month. By the mid-month, it will become observable as a bright “star” low in the ESE sky just before sunrise. It reaches the best time for observation on Oct 22 when it is furthest from the Sun. It will continue to be observable for the rest of the month as it slowly drops towards the horizon.

Mars is too close to the Sun to be seen.

Meteors

October sees a number of meteor showers including one of the year’s best, the Orionids.

Sporadic Meteors

Sporadic meteors are not part of any known meteor shower. They represent the background flux of meteors. Except for the few days per year when a major shower is active, most meteors that are observed are sporadics. This is especially true for meteors observed during the evening. During October, ten (10) or so Sporadic meteors can be observed per hour from a dark moonless sky.

Major Meteor Showers

Orionids (ORI)

The Orionids are the best shower during the month of October. When you see an Orionid meteor, you are seeing small pieces of Halley’s Comet which were released thousands of years ago. The Eta Aquarids of May are also from Comet 1P/Halley.

This shower is active from Oct 3 to Nov 11 with a broad peak between Oct 18 and 24. They radiate from northern Orion. During their peak, rates can be as high as 30-100 meteors per hour. Last year rates reached 70 meteors per hour and similar circumstances are predicted for this year with the best time being the morning of Oct 19 (for the US). However, a bright quarter Moon will wash out many of the fainter meteors resulting in smaller rates. Much of this year’s ORI meteors were released by Comet Halley between 1265 BC and 910 BC (for some points of reference, the Trojan War took place around 1200 BC and King David ruled around 1000 BC).

Minor Meteor Showers

Minor showers produce so few meteors that they are barely noticeable above the background of regular meteors.

Northern and Southern Taurids (NTA/STA)

The Taurids never produce more than ~5 meteors per hour. They make up for their low rates by being active for over two months and by producing many bright fireballs. Their fireballs are more apparent to the average observer because, unlike most meteor showers, the Taurids are observable all night long rather than just in the morning. They are active for the entire month of October with activity slowly building as the month progresses. Though named after the constellation of Taurus, the Taurids radiate from the constellation of Aries for most of October.

The Taurids are produced by Comet 2P/Encke. Encke is an enigmatic object with the shortest period for any known comet at 3.3 years. First observed in 1786, it has been observed over ~60 orbits and has been seen every year since 1993.

Delta Aurigids (DAU)

Until a few years ago, the September Perseids and the Delta Aurigids were considered part of the same shower. Analysis of the orbits of their meteors suggested that there are in fact two overlapping showers each originating from a different unknown long-period comet. Like the SPEs, this minor shower usually produces no more than ~3 meteors per hour at its maximum. There is some disagreement as to when this shower is active. Naked eye observations over the past few decades suggest a period of activity from Sept 18 through Oct 10 with a broad peak between Sept 23 and Oct 3. Recent video data finds a later period of activity between Oct 6 and 12 with no obvious peak. The DAUs radiate from the northern part of the constellation of Auriga just to the north of the bright star Capella.

October Camelopardalids (OCT)

This is a new shower first recognized in 2005, though sightings as early as 1902 have been recorded. A few OCAs are observable between Oct 1 and 10. The vast majority of meteors occur during a short  ~2 hour span at the time of peak activity. This year’s peak is predicted to occur within a few hours of ~14:00 UT (7:00 am PDT) on October 5. Unless the peak comes early it will occur after sunrise for observers in the western US. The peak time suggests a nice, but short, shower may be visible across the northern Pacific basin and in northeastern Asia. Since Camelopardalis is a far northern constellation, this shower is not visible from the Southern Hemisphere.

Draconids (Giacobinids) (GIA)

The Draconids have produced some of the highest rates of meteor activity in history. In both 1933 and 1946 rates were greater than 10,000 meteors per hour. Impressive rates of greater than 500 meteors per hour were also observed in 1952, 1985 and 1998. Unfortunately, this shower barely produces any meteors in non-storm years. What will this year hold in store? There are no predictions for any enhanced activity this year but we won’t know for sure unless we watch. This is another shower only observable from the Northern Hemisphere. It radiates from the constellation of Draco.

The Draconids are also known as the Giacobinids because they are produced by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. This comet was discovered by the same late 19th/early 20th century astronomer who found the recently re-discovered Comet 205P/Giacobini.

Epsilon Geminids (EGE)

This is an early morning shower which radiates from the constellation Gemini. It is visible between Oct 5 and 22 with a peak on Oct 14. At its best, only about 2 meteors per hour are visible.

Leo Minorids(LEO)

Yet another early morning shower, this time radiating from Leo Minor, a faint constellation just north of Leo. It is visible between Oct 17 and 27 with a maximum rate of only ~2 meteors per hour occurring on Oct 24.

Additional information on these showers and other minor showers not included here can be found at the following sites: Robert Lunsford’s Meteor Activity Outlook, Wayne Hally’s and Mark Davis’s NAMN Notes, and the International Meteor Organization’s 2008 Meteor Shower Calendar.

Comets

Naked Eye Comets

There are no comets bright enough to be seen without binoculars or a telescope.

Binocular Comets

Comet C/2008 A1 (McNaught)

Comet McNaught is a long-period comet that will pass closest to the Sun on Sept 29 at a distance of 1.07 AU (100 million miles or 160 million km). It was the first comet discovered in 2008 having been found by  Robert McNaught of the Siding Spring Survey back on Jan 10. It was McNaught’s 43rd comet discovery.

Since discovery this comet could only be seen from the Southern Hemisphere. This month it moves rapidly to the north and is easily visible from the Northern Hemisphere by mid-month. During October, the comet travels through the constellations of Libra and Ophiuchus. The comet is as bright as it is going to get at magnitude 6.5. A comet of this brightness can be seen in binoculars or a small telescope.

A finder chart for Comet McNaught can be found at Comet Chasing.

Small Telescope Comets

Comet 6P/d’Arrest

Comet 6P/d’Arrest was one of the first short-period comets to be observed. First seen by the Frenchman Philippe de la Hire in 1678, the comet was definitively discovered by Heinrich Louis d’Arrest of Germany on 1851 June 28.

Comet d’Arrest is in a short-period orbit with a period of 6.5 years. It passed closest to the Sun back on Aug 14 at a distance of 1.35 AU (125 million miles or 200 million km). Comet d’Arrest starts the month in the southern constellation of Grus before entering Sculptor near months end. The comet is a very difficult object for observers in the Northern Hemisphere. With a brightness of magnitude 8.5 it will require a telescope to be seen though observers at very dark sites may be able to see it in binoculars.

A finder chart for Comet d’Arrest can be found at Comet Chasing.

A nice collection of images can be found at the VdS-Fachgruppe Kometen (Comet Section of Germany) and Seiichi Yoshida’s Comet Homepage.

Asteroids

Binocular and Small Telescope Asteroids

(1) Ceres

Ceres is the biggest asteroid in the Main Belt with a diameter of 585 miles or 975 km. It is so big that it is now considered a Dwarf Planet. Classified as a carbonaceous (carbon-rich) Cg-type asteroid, there are suggestions that it may be rich in volatile material such as water. Some even propose that an ocean exists below the surface. Ceres is one of two targets for NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which is scheduled to visit it in 2015. This month Ceres is located low in the eastern sky right before sunrise in Leo at magnitude 8.7.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.

(2) Pallas

Pallas is also a carbonaceous asteroid though with a slightly bluish B-type spectrum. Due to its high inclination (tilt of its orbit with respect to Earth’s orbit) of 34 degrees it is a difficult target for future spacecraft missions. Pallas is large with dimensions of 350x334x301 miles or 582x556x501 km. This month it is located in the southern constellation of Lepus and brightens from magnitude 8.7 to 8.2 over the course of the month.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.

(4) Vesta

Though not as large as Ceres, Vesta is more reflective making it the brightest asteroid in the Main Belt. Vesta is peculiar in that it appears to have evidence of volcanism on its surface. Similar to the Moon, Vesta may be covered with large expanses of frozen lava flows. It is classified as a V-type asteroid and is the only large asteroid with this classification. Many of the smaller V-type asteroids are chips of Vesta blasted off it by past asteroid and comet impacts. Vesta is similar in size to Pallas with dimensions of 347x336x275 miles or 578×560×458 km. Vesta will also be visited by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft which will arrive in 2010. This month it is located in Cetus and brightens from magnitude 6.9 to 6.4 over the course of the month.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.

(9) Metis

Metis was discovered in 1848 by Andrew Graham of Ireland. It is a S-type asteroid with a composition similar to stony meteorites (ordinary chondrites). With a diameter of 140x120x85 miles or 235×195×140 km, it is much smaller than Ceres, Pallas or Vesta. In October Metis is located in Aries only a few degrees north of Vesta. It brightens from magnitude 9.4 to 8.6.

A finder chart (needs to be flipped upside down for Northern Hemisphere observers) can be found at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.

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