May 5/6/7/8/9 Meteors

The Eta Aquarids were predicted to peak during the evening of May 5. For observers in North America, this means the mornings of May 5 and 6 should have produced the most meteors. Interestingly, the number of Eta Aquarids being detected nightly is not much lower than the nights around the peak. This suggests the ETAs have a broad peak with maximum activity being seen over many nights. This is in contrast to showers like the Quadrantids or the Lyrids of 2 weeks ago that have narrow peaks that last for only a day. The ETA are more similar to the Orionids of October which is not surprising since both showers are produced by Comet Halley.

Though much less active than the Eta Aquarids, the Eta Lyrids are also producing a meteor or so every night or two. The minor shower is derived from Comet IRAS-Araki-Alcock, a comet which passed extremely close to the Earth in May of 1983.

Bob made a trek into the Southern California mountains to find darker skies. His results from the nights bracketing the ETA peak are included in the table below. From his notes: “Skies have been mostly cloudy at night in the San Diego area since the Lyrid maximum. In fact I had to drive to the local mountains to record any activity from the Eta Aquariids.”

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT ETA ELY
TUS  2009-05-09  07h 50m  15  6   0   8   1
TUS  2009-05-08  08h 29m  14  6   1   7   0
TUS  2009-05-07  08h 36m  9   4   0   3   2
SDG  2009-05-07  02h 00m  38  18  2   17  1
TUS  2009-05-06  06h 44m  9   1   0   8   0
SDG  2009-05-06  02h 00m  44  22  3   19  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
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
ETA – Eta Aquarids
ELY – Eta Lyrids