Sept 12/13th and Antihelion meteors

I’d like to thank all of you who have visited this page over the past few days. If you have any questions pertaining to comets, asteroids or meteors, please send them to me in the comments section and I’ll try to answer them ASAP. Your comments will also allow me to focus some future posts on topics that people are interested in.

The sky was clear last night although the Moon is a few days from full which is limiting the number of meteors which can be seen. When the Moon is in the sky it makes it hard to see anything faint whether stars or meteors. Even with the Moon, 19 meteors were detected last night. This is close to the my nightly average for September.

Date                     TotalTime      TOT    SPO     ANT     SPE

2008-09-13 UT     9h 13m         19      13        6         0

TOT – total # of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions (meteors coming from the opposition region, opposite the direction of the Sun)
SPE – September Perseids

The best meteor was seen at 10:51 pm. It was slow and bright while leaving a short-lived trail behind it. A movie of the meteor can be seen below. Now that I’ve figured out how to convert avi files to gif, I will be posting more movies rather than just still frames.

XX on Sept 12.

Almost a third of last night’s meteors were Antihelions. They appear to come from the part of the sky opposite the Sun and usually do not originate from any one specific comet. Over the millennia many comets have been releasing dust that are visible as meteors when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Over time this dust will move away from the orbit of their parent comet. The Antihelions can be thought of as orphan dust particles from 1000s of years worth of short-period comets whose perihelion (closest distance to the Sun) is within the Earth’s orbit (less than 1 AU or Earth-Sun distance). They are inbound particles headed towards their perihelion. Outbound particles are called Helions and since they appear to originate from the part of the sky near the Sun can only be observed during the day. We know of their existence because radio and radar telescopes, which can observe all day and night, have detected them.

Over the past few weeks, their have been an average of ~1 Antihelion observed per night. Last night 6 were observed. Interestingly, four may have come from the same radiant (point of origin on the sky). The plot below shows the path of a number of meteors extrapolated backwards. The circle with an X marks the center of the Antihelion region which covers tens of degrees (about halfway from the center to the right and left edges of the plot). You can see that the backward drawn path of four meteors crosses in the constellation of Pisces just east of the Antihelion point. Could these meteors be related, perhaps originating from a common comet? It’s possible, though with only four meteors in the group it could easily be a chance alignment. Observations from other observers and from other nights are required to confirm if this is a real meteor shower or just statistical noise. IMHO, it’s probably statistical noise.

Plot of meteor paths traced backed to origin. Plot shows the antihelion region on 2008 Sept. 13 UT.
Plot of meteor paths traced backed to their origin. Plot shows the antihelion region on 2008 Sept. 13 UT.


  1. On Sept. 12, 2008 at approx. 2000hrs Pacific time I saw the brightest meteor ever, low on the horizon in thre Vernon BC area. Almost could not believe my eyes, very bright and a long tail. Did you see it? Do you have a pic?
    Any other info would be appreciated.

    Thanks Todd

  2. Hi Todd, definitely sounds like a fireball (the term for a meteor brighter than Venus). Unfortunately it was too far away from Tucson for my camera to pick it up. In general most meteors can only be seen up people within 100-200 miles of where it happens. I haven’t seen any reports for this one but I’ll keep my eyes open.

  3. I saw a fireball at about the same time and date but over the Ringwood/Bournemouth area UK. It was glowing green with a tail and was the biggest ive ever seen. Been thinking about it for ages till I decided to see if anyone else spooted it. It really was spectacularly big and bright.

  4. OMG – I need a picture of this ‘fireball’. I witnessed it from Tulum, Mexico in the eastern part of the sky coming down from the left side of the nearly full moon. IT WAS AMAZING!! The tail was the longest I had EVER SEEN and the colors were definatly and literally ‘out of this world’. I had never seen a meteor with such colors, the tail carried along with purple then to turquoise. I must have a picture of this, why didn’t I have my video camera! It was amazing! The moment was amazing, I was sitting on the beach at about 12 to 1 am Carribean time, facing east to view the Sea and the moon in the clear sky. No city lights for I was deep in the jungle. WOW! I hope someone got a pic of this special moment, I was with a special person and when we saw this together it made our special moment freeze in time forever.

  5. Hi,

    I have been searching for something on the net about the meteor I just saw… I know this is a tad impatient but definitely one for the record books. About 8pm today (Pacific Time), September 12th 2009, over Maple Ridge B.C. I saw a meteor streak across the sky east to west.

    It began almost insignificantly like satelite size but leaving a tail which caught my eye. After watching it slowly burn across the sky growing in intensity leaving a longer tail behind until some small pieces broke off in a burst of brightness. The core continued along the same path becoming increasingly bright again to fade off in the distance as a small speck like a star. If it was to hit earth I would think somewhere about vancouver island or the straight of georgia. As for the colour, it was a bright gold with tinge of red when the meteor broke apart. It also spanned the majority of the sky and faded away rather than burn out like all the other meteors I have seen.

    Well, I hope someone else saw this as well.


    1. did you also notice the first comment meteor was one yr ago to date and same time, strange. i saw this one 2nite as well pretty cool

    2. I’m so glad someone else saw it too! I was in Langley when I saw it. I thought it was a plane crash at first. My daughter’s friend saw it as well. We both yelled for others to look but it was too late. It was quite a sight. I’ve never seen anything like it before!

    3. Hi!
      I totally saw the same thing form my East Van home around 8 pm. I’ve never seen one last so long and so bright. Apparently it was viewed all over the world as well!!! Such a rare and amazing thing to see! It burned out over the Ocean…I’ve never seen one come so close actually kind of scared me for an instant!

    4. I was at Ambleside Park, in West Vancouver, at the Sarah McLachlan Foundation’s Summer Sessions concert. Many of the 9000+ people in attendance got to see this spectacular meteor. My attention was drawn to it by others around me. I got to see it breaking up with several brightly burning bits flying off the main body. One in particular, was larger and seemed to shoot ahead of the main part. All of it was heading West and it looked to be descending quite quickly. Is there any news of where it landed?

  6. Hi
    I saw this fireball too tonight. Myself and four friends were sitting outside talking and suddenly there was this amazing fireball with a long tall streaking through the sky. It was incredible. It was about 8pm, and I live in Chilliwack, BC,
    Just as it was leaving our line of vision, it broke apart a little, and then we couldn’t see it anymore.
    We were all amazed by the size and birghtness of this fireball. I was hoping something would be on the news tonight, but I haven’t seen anything.

  7. Hi, i saw this meteor as well,i have never seen one travel at such a horizontal plane as this.and the fact that it was still light out was amazing. i tried to watch the last bit as it broke up,but it became to small to see,back in 1979 i seen one light up the night sky and actually hit what is now westwood platue,but the way this one flew across the sky was alot different then the others i have seen,wonder if it was just space junk? but a great display none the less

  8. I also saw that meteor from Vancouver Island. It was so close! It seemed closer than a plane would fly, although; it is rather hard to judge distance in the sky. I would love to have some information on this ball of fire. What exactly was it? How close were we to being in direct contact with it? Why, unlike other meteors, was this one travelling on such a low, horizontal plane? I am so glad that others’ saw this same thing. It truly was amazing! It would be great if there were a video clip of it. My eyes continue to greatly question what they saw so briefly last night…

  9. We saw it quite clearly in Hood River, Oregon last night as well! Very bright, pretty low…maybe 30 degrees(90 being straight up). It was very bright as it was still light out from the setting sun. We had just observed the space station passing overhead a short time earlier. We joked that the space station had dropped something off!

  10. I saw it as well, from North Vancouver, BC. Turned on news radio right after, trying to find out some info, but heard nothing. Nothing on the news last night, either. I would love to see a video or photos of it. I keep reliving what I saw in my mind – it was so cool….

  11. I too am looking for info as to what was up last night. We are in Fort McMurray Alberta facing east. Sept 12th 2009 1t aprox 9:33 the light show began. We saw lots of small falling/shooting stars but also witnessed some major big boys (golf/softball size). The first would have been close to the time of the one over BC. Very large in size with a very pink hue. About every hour we would see big bright streakers. The best was at aprox 1:30 am Sept 13th which left a trail through the skys that took almost a full 3 seconds to dissipate. We also had great northern lights & a beautiful sunrise, but the meteors were by far the most impresive.

  12. Tod Newman

    I live in Winfield man .Seen the same thing , that was the brightest object from the sky I have ever seen too.

  13. Well, I don’t know what to make of it, but, I saw a fireball too, at 11pm last night, Quebec time, which would be 8pm, BC time. I was driving, on the south shore of Montreal, and it crossed the sky in front of me, it was falling toward Earth and I could clearly see the smoke behind it. I had never seen anything like it before in my life.

  14. Thanks Carl. Great blog. I saw it from port alberni, vancouver island (if you could also give me a star on your map ; )

  15. I was on the beach in English Bay, Vancouver, when around 8 pm the huge bright ball of light with a fiery tail flew low over the bay heading west. It was the most incredible spectacle in the sky I have ever seen, and the hundreds of people on the beach were astounded as well. An hour or so later I’ve seen another meteor, quite smaller this time crossing the sky above me heading north.

  16. My sister and I were on Sproat Lake, BC when this meteor streaked across the sky. It was so close to us I thought it must have been a flare that someone set off. It actally looked like it burned out in front of our eyes. What an amazing sight.

  17. We live in the south okanagan near Oliver, and at about 8:30pm witnessed two venus sized fast moving lights much faster than a plane with no blinking lights. It was moving west to east, no tail, no flames,but very fast!

  18. I saw it too, sitting out by the cook fire with my pal. in Yellowpoint, near Ladysmith. BC. Flying low, so bright, tail, heading west, horizontally. Slow. About 8:00 pm. (pacific time) Last one I saw was a few years back, near Canmore, in the daytime!! A loud boom followed.

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