Meteor Activity Outlook for November 5-11, 2011

The following is a slightly edited version of Bob Lunsford’s excellent weekly summary of meteor activity. The original version can be found at the American Meteor Society’s site.

As seen from the northern hemisphere, meteor rates continue to be strong in November. While no major activity is expected this month, the two Taurid radiants plus the Leonids keep the skies active. The addition of strong sporadic rates make November one of the better months to view meteor activity from north of the equator. Skies are fairly quiet as seen from the southern hemisphere this month. Activity from the three showers mentioned above may be seen from south of the equator, but the sporadic rates are much lower than those seen in the northern hemisphere.

During this period the moon reaches its full phase on Thursday November 10th. At this time the moon will lie opposite of the sun and will be present in the sky all night long. This will be the worse time to try and view meteor activity this month as the brilliant moonlight will obscure all but the brightest meteors. This weekend the waxing gibbous moon will set during the early morning hours and will allow a short glimpse of early November meteor activity under dark conditions. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near three as seen from the northern hemisphere and two as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near fifteen as seen from mid-northern latitudes and ten from mid-southern latitudes. 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. Evening rates are reduc
ed this week due to moonlight.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning November 5/6. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The following showers are expected to be active this week:

Remnants from the famous Andromedid (AND) shower, noted for intense storms during the 19th century, may still be seen throughout November. The current position of this large radiant is 01:26 (022) +27. This position lies in a sparse area of northeastern Pisces. The nearest bright star is third magnitude Alpha Trianguli, which lies five degrees to the northeast. The radiant is so diffuse that Andromedid meteors may be seen coming from southern Andromeda, Triangulum, and northwestern Aries as well as eastern Pisces. Visual activity is expected to be low, but detectable. An inconspicuous maximum occurs on November 12. The Andromedid meteors are best seen near 2200 (10pm) LST (Local Standard Time), when the radiant lies on the meridian. At 19km/sec., the average Andromedid will appear as a very slow moving meteor.

The Northern Taurids (NTA) are active from a large radiant centered at 03:35 (054) +22. This position lies in western Taurus, three degrees southwest of the famous naked eye cluster known as the Pleiades (seven sisters). The radiant is best placed near 0100 LST, when it lies highest above the horizon. Since the radiant is large, Northern Taurid meteors may also appear to come from Aries, southern Perseus, as well as western Taurus. Meteors from the Northern Taurids strike the atmosphere at 29km/sec., which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be near two per hour, no matter your location.

The center of the Southern Taurid (STA) radiant now lies 03:39 (055) +14. This position also lies in western Taurus, but ten degrees south of the Pleiades.  The radiant is also best placed near the meridian at 0100 LST, but activity may be seen all night long. Since the radiant is large, Southern Taurid meteors may also appear to come from Aries as well as Taurus. Striking the atmosphere at 29 km/sec., the average Southern Taurid meteor travels slowly through the skies. Rates should be near one per hour no matter your location.

The Orionids (ORI) remain weakly active from a radiant located at 07:11 (108) +16. This position lies in southern Gemini, five degrees east of the second magnitude star Alhena (Gamma Geminorum). The radiant is best placed near 0400 LST, when it lies highest above the horizon. At 67km/sec., the average Orionid is swift with the brightest meteors producing persistent trains.

The Leonids (LEO) are just now coming to life from a radiant located at 09:48 (147) +25. This position lies in western Leo only one degree north of the third magnitude star Algenubi (Epsilon Leonis). Maximum activity is still more than a week away so current rates would most likely be less than one per hour. At 71km/sec., the average Leonid is swift with a high percentage of trains. These meteors are best seen during the last hour before the onset of morning twilight, when the radiant lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately eleven 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 five per hour as seen from rural observing sites and one per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Evening rates are reduced due to moonlight.

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
AND Andromedids           01h 26m  +27    19    <1    <1
NTA Northern Taurids      03h 35m  +22    29     2     2
STA Southern Taurids      03h 39m  +14    29     1     1 
ORI Orionids              07h 11m  +16    61     1     1
LEO Leonids               09h 48m  +25    71    <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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