May 1 Meteors

It has been way too long since I’ve updated this blog. Due to the constant juggle of work, family and other volunteer astronomical endeavors, updating this blog has often fallen to the bottom of the priority list. Even though this is often the case, I continue to observe comets (and coordinate the ALPO Comet Section) and run my SALSA3 meteor camera system (still part of the IMO Video Network using the MetRec meteor detection software).

The spring is usually the doldrums for meteor observing as their are few major showers and low numbers of sporadic meteors. Early May is a bit of a spring anomaly as there is a major shower active, the Comet Halley-produced Eta Aquariids (ETA). Last night my camera detected 25 meteors of which 6 were ETAs. ETA numbers should slowly increase as we approach the ETA peak on the night of May 4/5.

Obs Date(UT)     Time    TOT SPO XLI ABO PBO ETA 
SAL 2017-05-01  09h 20m   25  15  2   0   0   6  

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)
XLI - April Chi Librids
ABO - Alpha Bootids
PBO - Phi Bootids
ETA - Eta Aquariids
Oth - other minor showers

2008/2009 – The Past 2 Years of Video Meteors

10,102… that’s the number of meteors detected by my 2 camera systems since the start of observations in late February 2008 till the end of 2009. It’s amazing how quickly the numbers add up.

The high number is a testament to the clear dark sky over Tucson. Over all of 2009, I was able to detect meteors on 287 nights. That number could even have been higher if not for a few weeks when the cameras were left off. Hopefully I’ll be able to break 300 nights this year, though our active El Nino winter is resulting in a slow start.

My systems (as well as Bob’s) are part of an international group of video meteor observers using Sirko Molau’s MetRec meteor detection software. Last year this group, the IMO Video Meteor Network, consisted of 24 observers from 10 countries operating 43 camera systems. Every month Sirko publishes a summary of the previous month’s observations while the December summary also presents statistics on the entire year’s data. The IMO Video Meteor Network monthly summaries can be found here. Personally, I find them a great read and can’t wait for their release. Sirko does great work and the network would never have happened without him. Thanks, Sirko!

Below is a table breaking down my results by month. Nights, hours and meteors per month are listed. Even further down is a graph of nightly detections covering an entire year from March 2008 to February 2009. During this time only a single camera was used and for the most part, very little was changed. The camera, lens, position on the sky and MetRec code parameters were constant giving an accurate measure of the variation in meteor activity throughout the year. Note the weather has not been accounted for and results in low rates for some nights such as the monsoon months of July and August. Rather than looking like 5th or 6th best shower, the Perseids (PER) should be the best shower of the year. Also notice the rather broad maximum for the Orionids (ORI) versus the very short maximum of the Quadrantids (QUA). Other showers highlighted on the plot are the Lyrids (LYR), Southern Delta Aquariids (SDA), Leonids (LEO) and Geminids (GEM).

              SALSA1               SALSA2
Month  Nights Hours Meteors Nights Hours Meteors
2008
JAN      --    ---    ----    --    ---    ----
FEB       1      3       5    --    ---    ----
MAR      25    212     232    --    ---    ----
APR      29    221     305    --    ---    ----
MAY      22    151     191    --    ---    ----
JUN      23    168     255    --    ---    ----
JUL      15     73     229    --    ---    ----
AUG      20    117     357    --    ---    ----
SEP      29    224     460    --    ---    ----
OCT      30    304    1071    --    ---    ----
NOV      28    259     596    --    ---    ----
DEC      25    174     444    --    ---    ----
Total   247   1906    4145    --    ---    ----
2009
JAN      26    198     443    --    ---    ----
FEB      24    144     207    --    ---    ----
MAR      25    152     201    --    ---    ----
APR      26    136     192    --    ---    ----
MAY      26    134     195    --    ---    ----
JUN      22     73      97    18     65      93
JUL      23     75     148    23     87     225
AUG       9     33      74     8     36      91
SEP      27    122     202    26    167     434
OCT      26    180     692    27    192     919
NOV      26    128     439    25    155     643
DEC      27    127     364    12     74     298
Total   287   1502    3254   139    776    2703

August 2/3 Meteors

The clouds are back. Luckily they were light enough that many meteors could still be seen.

Rates are down compared to a few nights ago when my cameras were catching 50-60 meteors per night. The lower rates are due to 3 reasons. 1) The Southern Delta Aquariids and Alpha Capricornids are past their peak. 2) More clouds. 3) As a result of more clouds I changed the parameters on the MetRec detection program.

Usually I set up MetRec to flag any detection moving on 2 sequential images as a possible meteor. Though this does a great job of catching meteors it also catches noise patterns and clouds. If there are lots of fast moving clouds, the software can flag 1000s of them as possible meteors. Needless to say, this takes a lot of time to do through. So if I know that clouds will be around, I change MetRec to only  flag moving objects which occur on 3 consecutive images. That cuts down on the number of false detections by over ~90% but also cuts down on the number of real meteors by ~10-20%.

Obs Date (UT)  TotTime TOT SPO ANT CAP SDA PAU PER KCG
TUS 2009-08-03 06h 59m  29  13  0   0   4   2   9   0
SDG 2009-08-03 02h 02m  62  40  0   2   6       14  0

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
SPOSporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
CAP – Alpha Capricornids
SDA – Southern Delta Aquariids
PAU – Piscids Australids
PER – Perseids
KCG – Kappa Cygnids