Jan 24/25/26/27/28 Meteors

Not much to report from the past few nights. Last night was rained out and the previous 2 were hampered by lots of passing cirrus. The long-range forecast calls for a wet February which is great for breaking our drought but not for meteor watching.

The big meteor-related news was the video detection of a minor outburst by the very poorly observed shower, the Gamma Ursae Minorids (reported on CBET 2146). A network of 6 video meteor cameras in Finland detected 10 meteors from this shower on the night of Jan 20/21. Unfortunately my cameras, as well as Bob’s, were offline that night due to bad weather. Even if it were clear we might not have recognized anything. The 6 Finnish cameras only saw 4, 1, 1, 1, 3 and 2 meteors apiece (this adds up to more than 12 because some meteors were seen by multiple cameras). It was only after combining data from the 6 cameras that the shower was obvious.

Until last week the shower was only known from Canadian radar observations. Since radar detects meteors that are much smaller, and hence fainter, than those seen visually or by video, the thinking was that this shower is too faint for us video and visual observers. But a quick search of Sirko Molau’s IMO Video Meteor Database (of which my and Bob’s cameras are members) shows this to not be the case. The Gamma Ursae Minorid radiant shows up as one of the most productive radiants for a 3 night period ending on Jan 20/21. These radiants were determined from 100,000s of meteors observed over the past decade or more.

Even though it is easy to go back and find evidence of this shower now, it is one of many possible minor showers that are hard to verify as real with much confidence. As more and more observations are made, don’t be surprised if the number of recognized showers increases by the hundreds.

Bob’s notes from the night of Jan27/28: “A weak storm prevented any observations on the 27th. Tonight, skies were clear during this entire session. I got off to a late start as I was not home until later in the evening.”

… and the night of Jan 25/26: “High clouds delayed the start of observations tonight. After 2200 (10pm PST) the sky cleared enough to begin. Skies were mostly clear the remainder of the night with a few passing strands of cirrus.”

… and the night of Jan 24/25: “Ten nights of clouds and rain have now given way to clear skies. Meteor activity was good tonight despite the bright moon.”

Obs  Date(UT)      Time    TOT SPO ANT DLM
TUS  2010-01-28   00h 00m Clouds - No Meteors
SDG  2010-01-28   05h 47m   21  19  2   0
TUS  2010-01-27   10h 09m   2   2   0   0
SDG  2010-01-26   00h 00m Clouds - No Meteors
TUS  2010-01-26   11h 49m   2   1   0   1
SDG  2010-01-26   09h 12m   35  31  3   1
TUS  2010-01-25   11h 49m   14  12  1   1
SDG  2010-01-25   10h 32m   46  39  5   2 

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
DLM - December Leonis Minorids