Meteor Activity Outlook for September 11-17, 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.

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 15th. At this time the moon will be located ninety degrees east of the sun and will will set near 0100. This weekend the waxing crescent moon will set during the late evening hours and will not interfere with meteor observing during the prime morning hours. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is ~3 from the northern hemisphere and ~2 from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be ~20 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.

The radiant positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning September 11/12. 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:

Southern Taurids (STA)

Recent video studies by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel have revealed that activity from the Southern Taurids (STA) is actually detectable beginning on September 7th. So from now until December 10th, the Taurid radiants will replace the Antihelion source since they overlap and cannot be separated. The large Southern Taurid radiant is now centered at 00:32 (008) +04. This area of the sky lies on the Pisces/Cetus border, five degrees southwest of the fourth magnitude Delta Piscium. The radiant is large so that any meteor from Pisces, northern Cetus, northeastern Aquarius, or southeastern Pegasus could be a candidate for this shower. This radiant is best placed near 0200 LDT when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Maximum activity is not until October 10th so current rates should be ~3 no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid 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 02:28 (037) +66. This position lies in eastern Cassiopeia, five degrees northeast 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 03:16 (049) +41. This position lies in southwestern Perseus, only two degrees east 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 expected to be <1 per hour. With an entry velocity of 66 km/sec., most activity from this radiant would be swift. This activity is visible down to the tropical regions of the southern hemisphere. While watching for the September Epsilon Perseids I would suggest also watching for any activity from the original IMO September Perseid radiant. There have been reports of activity from this source this year including an estimated -11 fireball on September 9th. The radiant is active from a position of 04:08 (062) +47. This position is located in eastern Perseus near the fourth magnitude star Upsilon Persei. Activity is expected through September 17th.

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 04:40 (070) +03. This position lies in a remote region of northeastern Eridanus, a dozen degrees due south of the bright first magnitude orange star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri). The radiant is best placed near 0500 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Rates should be 1-2 per hour this 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
STA Southern Taurids      00h 32m  +04    30     3     3
SIC Iota Cassiopeiids     02h 28m  +66    50    <1    <1
SPE Sept Epsilon Perseids 03h 16m  +41    66    <1    <1
NUE Nu Eridanids          04h 40m +03    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


  1. I am not sure where to post this but this seems as good as any place.
    I saw what I think was a very very large meteor at about 9ish this evening, 9/12/2010. Of course I have seen many meteors/shooting starts (I have no idea if there is a difference) and this was by far 20 to 30 times larger then anything I have ever seen. I am in Issaquah WA and the meteor started due east about 70 to 80 degrees above the horizon, traveled North to South but at a very steep angle, and ended south east at about 45 degrees. It was very bright blue to white in color with maybe some green around the edge. It happened so fast I am not quite sure of the colors.

    1. Brad,

      Your object sure sounds like a brilliant fireball (what we call a bright meteor). Many of the brighter meteors are not different in brightness from the regular run-of-the-mill meteors, but they also can move much slower and last much longer. Everything you described (motion, color, etc.) is consistent with a fireball.

      – Carl

  2. I am in Orange, CA (near Disneyland), at 10pm in the SE sky I saw the same bright white star, but I think it might be Jupiter. It appeared to have a line running through it. I was only using the naked eye so I could have been the rings. It seemed to be moving, but I can’t be sure.

    1. I saw what I would call a meteor this morning about 6:25 a.m. It was certainly bigger than any shooting star I have seen. It was moving very fast across the sky in front of me, it was a bright glowing green with a tail stream behind it. It happened so quick, then it just seemed to dissapear. I am in a small rural town outside of Cincinnati Ohio.

    2. Janine… I believe you are correct, the brilliant star you see in the SE sky is Jupiter. Over the course of the night, it will move towards the west. Jupiter will slowly appear earlier in the night and higher in the sky for the next few months. … Carl

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