Look out for the Quadrantids

The first meteor shower of 2020 is just around the corner, with the Quadrantids (QUA) expected to peak on the morning of the 4th of January. This is a short-lived but often intense shower. The quoted hourly rate is about 120 but the first-quarter Moon will set around midnight and with the Moon up, a realistic rate is 20-30. Once the Moon sets it should improve.

For more information see the main article here


Meteor Outlook for January and February 2020

The first shower of the year, the Quadrantids (QUA), is usually a pretty good one. The peak this year is on 3rd/4th January. Thewaxing gibbous Moon will set around 1am, so the best time will be in the hours before dawn. Wrap up warm though!

The published hourly rate is 120 for the Quadrantids but this assumes the radiant is directly over above you, there is no moonlight, and you can see in all directions at once.  In fact the radiant will be between 30 and 50 degrees up during the hours between moonset and dawn, and so you might expect to see 10-20 per hour around moonset, perhaps more later.

After the Quadrantids its quiet in the meteor calendar until April. The only shower visible from the Northern Hemisphere is the γ-Ursae Minorids (GUM) on the 10th of Jan with an hourly rate of three, though the December Leonis Minorids (DLM) do run on until February. There are two faint showers, the α-Centaurids (ACE) and γ-Normids (GNO) visible from the Southern Hemisphere but these also have very low rates.

The Anthelion Source is also most easily observed at this time of year. This is a large patch of sky containing a number of weak ill-defined showers.  The centre of the anthelion source starts the year in Gemini and moves into Leo during February. Hourly rates of two to three can be expected from this area of sky about thirty by fifteen degrees.

These faint showers are often best detected using radio or video observation techniques. There’s more on both these techniques on our website.

Meteor Outlook for December 2019

December is one of the best months for meteor hunters. Although the nights are cold, they’re long and dark, and we have one of the most active meteor showers of the year to look forward to.

Early in the month, watch out for the Phoenecids (PHO). Researchers think that the Earth may be about to pass through a denser patch of cometary debris on 2nd Dec, with a possible hourly rate of 12 around 21:30UT and a radiant near theta Ceti (much higher than the normal radiant of this shower which is not a northern hemisphere object).

The Geminids (GEM) are the big event of the year, usually producing even greater numbers than the Perseids. The peak this year on 13th/14th Dec is unfortunately close to the Full Moon but Gemini is well placed from 22.00 onward and with an hourly rate of 150, you should spot some meteors in the early evening even against the moonlight. They’re quite slow moving, can be bright and colourful but do not usually leave trails.

Taking into account the moonlight, a realistic rate is between 7 and 10 per hour. The Geminids run from 4th to 17th Dec. The screenshot below shows the radiant high in the East at 22.00 with that annoying Moon just below!

The Ursids (URS) run from 17th to 26th Dec with a peak on 21st/22nd Dec and an hourly rate of around 10, but with a 20% waning crescent Moon and the radiant high in the North near the box of Ursa Minor, observation conditions are good.

Finally although they peak in early January, the Quadrantids (QUA) start in late December. With an hourly rate of 120 and the moon a waxing crescent, there’s a good chance of seeing some if the skies are clear. The radiant is low in the north east.

There are also several minor showers during December. The Monocerotids (MON) peak on the 9th with a rate of two,  the σ-Hydrids (HYD) peak on the 12th with a rate of around three, the Comae Berenicids (COM) peak on the 16th also with a rate of around three, and the December Leonis Minorids (DLM) peak on the 20th with a rate of around 5. None of these are individually spectacular but it does mean there’s almost constant shower activity in December!

If you do see something please send in a report to meteor@popastro.com or use the link on our website to report it via the IMO. When making a report of a sighting, please include the date, time, your location, the direction in which you saw the object, and rough direction it was going in. This can help us link it to other sightings, and maybe even work out more about the meteoroid that caused it.

Possible outburst of Phoenicids on 23rd Nov and 2nd Dec

eMeteorNews reports that researchers have suggested there may be enhanced activity from the Phoenicids (PHO) on 23rd November and 2nd December, as the Earth passes through denser patches of cometary debris that we last traversed in 1877, 1898 and 1946.

Although the Phoenicids are not normally a northern hemisphere shower, the location of the debris suggests the radiant may be much nearer the ecliptic than normal, somewhere near theta Ceti (01h, -07deg). Meteors from this location would be slow moving and probably quite distinctive.

If you’re operating a video camera or radio detection set, please check your data for the evening of 23rd Nov, and keep an eye out for enhanced activity on the 2nd as well.

More information here https://www.meteornews.net/2019/11/22/forecast-for-phoenicids-pho254-in-2019/

Fireball seen over USA Monday 11th Nov

A bright fireball was seen over eight states in the USA on Monday night.

Analysis suggests it was a 300mm diameter chunk of rock weighing around 90kg and enough may have remained to cause a fall.It was too slow to be a Taurid. Meteorite hunters are converging on the area in the hopes of finding fragments.

More info here.




Possible outburst of Alpha-Monocerotids on 22nd Nov.

The IMO is predicting a possible outburst of the alpha-monocerotids on the morning of 22nd November:

“A very short outburst for the alpha Monocerotids (AMO#246) is likely on 2019 November 22, at 04h50m UT at the morning sky over Europe (Jenniskens and Lyytinen, 2019a). This outburst is caused by the dust released by a long period comet, but the comet itself is still unknown.”

More detail here https://www.meteornews.net/2019/11/06/likely-alpha-monocerotids-amo246-outburst-on-the-morning-of-november-22-2019/

Meteor Outlook for November 2019

Most of 2019’s meteor showers are cursed by bright Moons and November’s are no exception. Of course its still possible to see meteors, and here’s a summary of what you might see.

At the start of the month we still have the Northern Taurids (NTA) and Orionids (ORI) going on. The Orionids tail off by the 7th. The Northern Taurids peak on about 11th Nov but a nearly full Moon will interfere with an hourly rate of five and you are not likely to see much except the brightest. NTAs are medium speed meteors.

The Leonids (LEO) are next. They peak on 16/17th Nov, but an 80% Moon will get in the way. Worse, the radiant doesn’t rise till midnight by which time the Moon will be high in the sky. Quoted rates are 15 but with half the sky below the horizon and the Moon bleaching the sky, i reckon five would be a good rate. Leonids do often have persistent trails though, and a weak outburst is possible if the Earth passes through a denser patch of debris from 55P/Temple-Tuttle, the parent body. Leonids are fast-moving and the radiant is in the “crook” of Leo’s tail as shown in the picture below which shows the view looking East at around 3am.

Later in the month there are two lesser showers, starting with the α-Monocerotids (AMO) which peak dawn on 22nd at a rate of five per hour. The radiant will be low in the south east and a crescent Moon will rise at 01.30 so check early. The Northern Orionids (NOO) run from 14th Nov to 6th Dec with a peak around 28th. The rate of three per hour is low but fast moving and the Moon is new so you should spot one or two.

If you do see something please send in a report to meteor@popastro.com or use the link on our website to report it via the IMO. When making a report of a sighting, please include the date, time, your location, the direction in which you saw the object, and rough direction it was going in. This can help us link it to other sightings, and maybe even work out more about the meteoroid that caused it.

Meteor Outlook for October 2019

We have several meteor showers coming up – though please don’t believe the press hype about massive fireballs as bright as the moon, thats not really likely. I’d be delighted if you saw one though and if you do, please do let me know and send pics if you have them.
The Camelopardalids (international code OCT) peak tonight (6th October). This is a minor shower with a rate of around five per hour but with the radiant high in the north east, you may spot some despite a 60% Moon. They’re quite fast moving.
The Southern Taurids (STA) have actually been going on since mid Sept and will continue to mid Nov, though they have a weak maximum on the 9th of October. Peak rates are around five an hour, though unless you live on a hilltop with a 360 degree horizon you are not going to see that many. Southern Taurids do produce slow-moving fireballs but the 86% Moon will make it hard to see faint meteors.
The Draconids (DRA) are a short-lived shower (6-10th Oct) with a peak rate of around ten per hour. Again moonlight will interfere with visibility though the radiant is high in the north west which improves your chances.
The Orionids (ORI) peak on 21st October, but are already in progress and will go on till early November. Peak rates are officially about 20, but a 45% Moon will drown out faint ones, and the radiant doesn’t rise till around 11pm in the UK so I reckon five an hour would be more likely. Orionids are usually quite fast moving.
Finally later in October the Northern Taurids (NTA) kick off and continue through to December. These are very similar to the Southern Taurids, but the Moon will be nearly full at the peak of 11th Nov, so you’re more likely to see something in late October when the radiant will be high in the south east after sunset and the Moon won’t interfere.
When making a report of a fireball, please include the date+time, your location, direction in which you saw the object, and rough direction it was going in. This can help us link it to other sightings, and maybe even work out more about the meteoroid that caused it. You can also use the link on our website which submits a report to the International Meteor Organization.