Meteor Activity Outlook for September 18-24, 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 full phase on Thursday September 23rd. At this time the moon will be located opposite the sun and will rise as the sun sets and sets as the sun rises. This weekend the waxing gibbous moon will set during the early morning hours and will allow a short window of opportunity between moonset and morning twilight to view meteor activity under dark conditions. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is ~2 from the northern hemisphere and ~1 from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be ~16 from the northern hemisphere and ~6 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 18/19. 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)

The center of the large Southern Taurid (STA) radiant lies at 00:56 (014) +05. This position lies in southern Pisces, three degrees southeast of the fourth magnitude star Delta Piscium. Since the radiant is so large, any meteor from Pisces, western Cetus, or southwestern Pegasus could be a candidate for this shower. The radiant is best placed near the meridian near 0200 LDT, but activity may be seen all night long. Striking the atmosphere at 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor travels slowly through the skies. Rates this week should be near two per hour no matter your location.

Nu Eridanids (NUE)

Many radiants in the region of Eridanus and Orion have been suspected this time of year. Recent studies have verified a radiant active in Eridanus and moving on into Orion from September 3rd through the 24th with maximum activity occurring on the 6th. The Nu Eridanid (NUE) radiant is currently located at 05:00 (075) +06. This position lies in western Orion, five degrees west of the second magnitude star Bellatrix (Gamma Orionis). Old time observers may recall a radiant active in Orion this time of year called the Sigma Orionids. This may be a verification of that activity. The radiant is best placed near 0500 LDT, when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Rates should less than one 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 56m  +05    30     2     2
NUE Nu Eridanids          05h 00m  +06    68    <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


  1. I saw a very large, bright ball of light with a classic tail traveling northwest to northeast aproximately 4:32 am Sunday, September 19, 2010. I was in Newport, RI. Has anyone else reported its sighting? Any idea what I saw? I sighted what I believe to have been a meteor moments later traveling south to north. I would like to know what the first object was that I saw, it was bigger than anything I have seen before.

    Thank you,
    Susan Estabrook

  2. Hello Susan,

    My name is Felima, I reside here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.. I saw the exact same thing yesterday evening (9/21/2010 9:30pm??) .. It was a bright ball–look turquoise greenish??? with a long tail of burning light… Im sorry i don’t know how to explain it.. It was traveling south to north.. I would like to know what it was also.. I never seen anything like it… Have a good day…

  3. My name is Manuel. I reside in Northeastern, NM about 37 miles northeast of Las Vegas, NM on the South Side of the Canadian river in a small cattle ranching area. Last night, Tuesday, Sept 21 at about 9:00-9:30 pm, I saw a large meteorite. At first I thought it was the lights of a low flying helicopter. The object moved from SE to NW. It was visible for about 3-5 seconds. I tried to get a photo, but my camera was set on zoom and I was not prepared. The object moved fairly slowly. This is the largest “shooting star” that I have seen.

  4. I live in Central Kentucky. Around 10:00 p.m., I saw a large, blue-green light. It lasted for around 3 seconds, and appeared to be falling, moving from southeast to northwest. We did not hear any boom, although the light did appear to be moving fast enough to hit the ground. I’ve seen many “shooting stars”, but this was the largest, and strangest I have ever seen.

  5. I live about 3 miles N. of the northern base of the Sandia Mountains – almost dead center. I was out on my back deck wihch faces S. scanning the sky when something caught my eye. I saw this huge fireball coming N. through a sloping break on the eastern side of the Sandia’s. I put down my binocs for a sec to get a naked eye view it was so large. The front of the meteor was bright white, then fierce orange and unimaginably, a GREEN tail. I went back to my quite large 20×80 binocs as it continued heading north, and watched it fade out in the area between here, Placitas, NM and Madrid, NM. This meteor was so huge that it ranks up there with an UFO sighting. Amazing.

  6. Two more things about the meteor I forgot to mention. 1. It didn’t seem to have much of an arc to it’s trajectory and it’s path seemed almost horizontal, 2. I expected to hear noise and the meteor was dead quiet though it seemed so close. 3. Estimate it fell from 6-16 miles from E. Placitas.

  7. I was camping with my class near the American River and I looked North in the night sky around 10:00 PM to see a big ball of fire. I thought it was a shooting star but it appeared to be getting bigger. Then it got smaller and lower to the ground and dissapeared into the distance- Northeast.

    1. I live in Henderson NV, about 12 miles south of McCarren airport. Last night (9/24) at 8:45 PM I was sitting on our back patio when I saw a very bright ball of fire with a long tail that appeared to be dropping towards the ground. It seemed to appear southwest of the moon, and would have been traveling towards the northeast.
      First thought it was a very large shooting star. The ball was as bright as last night’s moon.
      Any idea what it could be?

  8. (CALIFORNIA) I was traveling East on HWY 58 on Friday, Sept. 24th, I was sitting passenger on my way up to Apple valley to visit my grandmother. It was around 8:45pm because I called my sister shortly after my sighting since she was in the vehicle in front of ours and wanted to know if anyone in her vehicle had seen what I had seen. No one besides myself had seen it in our vehicle although my brother in law up ahead seen it as well. It’s a very dark and mountainous area so you have the clearest backdrop. Out of the darkness I witnessed a very large ball of fire decending from the sky twards the ground…it’s trail of fire was so vivid and multi-colored blue and tiel and red. The shape of the trail was like that of the leaf of hollyberry. It seemed so close, like it were just beyond the mountain…the size appeared about a quarter the size of the moon. It lasted only a couple seconds and was amongst the most spectacular thing I have ever seen! Just glad someone I knew was able to experience the same thing I have. Only few eyes get to see each of these and each are special in different ways. Not sure what this was but it was beautiful!!! Im sure this is what Karen in Henderson saw since the time is pretty much right on as well as the direction.

    1. Christine – my wife and I saw the same thing you did. We were traveling eastbound on Highway 58 on our way to Nevada on the night of September 24th. We saw an incredible flash of light to the north east. Its light appeared in an instant and was a greenish-blue color. It’s trajectory appeared to be perpendicular to the ground and it was moving towards the ground at an incredible velocity. It lasted only about two seconds I would guess, then disappeared with a second even more incredible flash of light. Probably one of the most amazing things we’ve ever seen. I’m glad you reported this. I googled “green meteor September 24 California” and this post came up.

  9. 12:18 AM September 27, 2010, ALBUQUERQUE, NM. I witnessed a very large meteor strike near Albuquerque. The trajectory was nearly vertical from the south/southeast. The initial strike broke up into 5+ secondary strikes resulting in yet another 10+ final strikes. It was very large, not much of a tail, white & blue in color. I was able to pull over immediately and take a GPS reading and extrapolate the location of the strike fairly accurately I believe. I have not yet been able to explore the area but I’m trying to do so before the snow sets in. Anyone else witness the strike and/or the meteor (or whatever it was) that morning?

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