Meteor Activity Outlook for January 30-February 5, 2010

The Meteor Activity Outlook is a weekly summary of expected meteor activity written by Robert Lunsford, Operations Manager of the American Meteor Society and contributor to this blog. The original unedited version of this week’s Meteor Activity Outlook can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

February offers the meteor observer in the northern hemisphere a couple of weak showers plus falling sporadic rates. This may not seem too exiting but you never know when surprises are in store. An errant earthgrazer from the Centaurid complex may shoot northward. Better yet, a bright fireball may light up the sky. February is the start of the fireball season, when an abundance of fireballs seem to occur. This lasts well into April and seems to occur mostly during the early evening hours.

Observers in the southern hemisphere are treated to the Alpha Centaurid peak on the 8th plus the entire Centaurid complex of radiants is active all month long. Sporadic rates are slightly less than those seen in January, but still stronger than those witnessed north of the equator.

During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Saturday January 30th. At this time the moon will be in the sky all night long making meteor observing difficult at best. As the week progresses the moon will rise later and later in the evening offering a few hours of dark sky between the end of evening twilight and moonrise. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is ~1 for those in the northern hemisphere and ~2 for those south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be ~8 from the northern hemisphere and ~10 as seen from the southern hemisphere. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Meteor rates this week are reduced by strong moonlight.

The radiant positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning January 30/31. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The full descriptions of each active meteor shower will continue next week when the moon becomes less of a nuisance to observers.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Shower Name                RA     DEC   Vel     Rates
                                        km/s   NH    SH
ANT Antihelions          09h 36m  +13    30     2     1
DLE Dec Leonis Minorids  13h 12m  +12    64    <1    <1
ACE Alpha Centaurids     13h 20m  -57    56    <1     1

RA - Right Ascension
DEC - Declination
Vel - Velocity relative to Earth (in km per sec)
Rates - Rate of visible meteors per hour from a
        dark site
NH - Northern Hemisphere
SH - Southern Hemisphere

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