Meteor Activity Outlook for February 4-10, 2012


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.

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 also peak this month south of the equator this month adding to the celestial show.

During this period the moon reaches its full phase on Tuesday February 7th. At that time the moon will be located opposite the sun in the sky and will remain above the horizon all night long. This weekend the waxing gibbous moon will be in the sky most of the night. There will be a little time between moon set and the start of morning twilight when dark skies will allow good observing conditions. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near one for observers in the northern hemisphere and two for those south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near four as seen from mid-northern latitudes and eight 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. Rates are reduced 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 February 4/5. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period.

The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning. Detailed descriptions of each shower will be continued next week when lunar interference will be less severe.

Antihelion (ANT) – 09:56 (149) +11   Velocity 30km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – 1 per hr Southern Hemisphere – 1 per hour

Alpha Centaurids (ACE)  13:46 (206) -58   Velocity 57km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr Southern Hemisphere – 1 per hour

Pi Hydrids (PIH)   14:09 (212) -21   Velocity 70km/sec
Northern Hemisphere – <1 per hr Southern Hemisphere – <1 per hour