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.
September offers longer nights in the northern hemisphere that tend to be less hazy than those experienced in mid-summer. In the sky, no major showers are visible from either hemisphere but the northern hemisphere enjoys the advantage of higher sporadic rates. Most of the shower activity this month is produced from the Perseus-Aurigid complex active this time of year. These showers rarely produce more than five meteors per hour but still manage to produce most of the shower activity seen this month. Unfortunately the Perseus-Aurigid complex lies too low in the northern sky for southern hemisphere observers to view very well. Video studies have shown that the Southern Taurids are visible as early as September 7th therefore after this date the Antihelion radiant will no longer be listed until the Taurid showers end in December. The Antihelion meteors are still active but their radiant is superimposed upon that of the more numerous Taurids, therefore it is impossible to properly separate these meteors. Observers in the southern hemisphere suffer from some of their lowest rates of the year this month. The Southern Taurid radiant is not too badly placed so observers south can expect to see a little of this activity this month.
During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Wednesday September 8th. At this time the moon will be located near the sun and will not be visible at night. This weekend the waning crescent moon will not interfere with meteor observing as long as you keep it out of your field of view. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is ~4 from the northern hemisphere and ~3 from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be ~18 from the northern hemisphere and ~12 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.
The radiant positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning September 4/5. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.
As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately five sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near two per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near fourteen per hour as seen from rural observing sites and three per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Morning rates are slightly reduced due to moonlight.
The following showers are expected to be active this week:
The wide Antihelion (ANT) radiant is now centered at 23:40 (355) -01. This area of the sky lies in western Pisces, seven degrees south of the fourth magnitude star Iota Piscium. This radiant is best placed near 0200 LDT when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Due to the large size of this radiant, any meteor radiating from eastern Aquarius, southern Pegasus, western Pisces, or western Cetus could be a candidate for this shower. Rates at this time should be ~3 per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of medium-slow speed.
September Iota Cassiopeiids (SIC)
Studies of the IMO’s vast video database by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel has revealed a radiant active in Cassiopeia this time of year. The September Iota Cassiopeiids (SIC) are active from September 4th through the 13th with maximum activity occurring on the 11th. The radiant position is currently located at 02:32 (038) +59. This position lies in eastern Cassiopeia, five degrees southeast of the third magnitude star Segin (Epsilon Cassiopeiae). The radiant is best placed near 0500 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Rates throughout the activity period are expected to remain <1 per hour. With an entry velocity of 50 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift. Due to the high northern declination (celestial latitude) meteors from this shower are not well seen from the southern hemisphere.
September Epsilon Perseids (SPE)
The September Epsilon Perseids (SPE) are active from September 5th through the 13th with maximum activity occurring on the 9th. The radiant position is currently located at 02:56 (044) +41. This position lies in southwestern Perseus, only two degrees west of the famous eclipsing variable star known as Algol (Beta Persei). The radiant is also best placed near 0500 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon. Rates are currently less than one per hour but will increase to 1-3 per hour at maximum. This shower experienced an outburst in 2008 with ZHR’s near 25 for a short time. Many bright meteors were produced during this outburst with the brightest estimated at magnitude -8. With an entry velocity of 66 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift. This activity is visible from the tropical regions of the southern hemisphere
Nu Eridanids (NUE)
Many radiants in the region of Eridanus have been suspected this time of year. Recent studies of the IMO’s vast video database by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel has verified a radiant active in Eridanus from September 3rd through the 24th with maximum activity occurring on the 6th. The Nu Eridanid (NUE) radiant is currently located at 04:24 (066) -01. This position lies in a remote region of northeastern Eridanus. The nearest bright star is Rigel (Beta Orionis), which lies twelve degrees to the southeast. The radiant is best placed near 0500 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Rates may be close to 2 per hour this weekend and early next week. With an entry velocity of 68 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift. With the radiant lying close to the celestial equator, these meteors are seen equally well from both hemispheres.
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 23h 40m -01 30 3 3 SIC Iota Cassiopeiids 02h 32m +59 50 <1 <1 SPE Sept Epsilon Perseids 02h 56m +41 66 <1 <1 NUE Nu Eridanids 04h 24m -01 68 2 2 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