Meteor Section        

 
 

May 26, 2023

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook, click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for May 27-June 2, 2023

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

May 19, 2023

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook, click on:  Meteor Activity Outlook for May 20-26, 2023

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

May 12, 2023

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook, click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for May 13-19, 2023

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

May 5, 2023

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook, click on:  Meteor Activity Outlook for May 6-12, 2023

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

Halley’s Comet particles

Every year between mid-April and the end of May, the Earth encounters the outbound debris from Halley’s Comet. Outbound describes the motion of each particle as it moves away from the sun and passes near the Earth on its way back to the outer realms of the solar system. Halley’s comet passes through the inner solar system every 76 years and each one of those passages creates a new stream of particles as they separate from the comet due to heating from the sun. These streams each have a slightly different orbit due to planetary perturbations and the fact that the comet is never exactly in the same every location time when it returns to the inner solar system. When a planet passes close to one of these streams the particles get moved ever so slightly out of their previous orbit. Since many of these particles have been orbiting for over two thousand years they can now encounter the Earth anytime during a six week span from mid-April to the last of May. The Earth encounters the mean position of these many orbits on May 5th or 6th of each year. That is when the particle concentration is greatest and we witness the maximum activity of the eta Aquariid meteor shower. It should be noted that the particles we see as meteors separated from the comet many hundreds of years ago as the current orbit of the comet does not cross the orbit of the Earth.

Meteor showers on Earth are caused by streams of meteoroids hitting our atmosphere. These meteoroids are sand and pebble-sized bits of rock that were once released from their parent comet. The above visualization shows the meteoroid streams of the Halley’s comet orbiting the Sun.

Eta Aquariids in 2023 will peak on May 6

Since the eta Aquariids are the outbound particles of the Halley’s comet, we see them radiate from a point west of the sun. This positioning only allows these meteors to be seen on the morning side of Earth. To make matters more restrictive, the source of these meteors, located in the constellation of Aquarius, does not clear the horizon until 2:00 to 3:00am local daylight saving time as seen from the lower northern latitudes. Viewing circumstances are even worse for mid and upper northern latitudes as the rising of the radiant and the start of morning twilight become closer together as one moves northward. Viewing circumstances for the eta Aquariids are best for those located in the southern tropics where the source of these meteors rises highest in a dark sky. Most observers in the northern hemisphere have only a one to two hour window prior to dawn to view these meteors.

In 2022, the waxing crescent moon was located in the evening sky during the shower’s maximum and the display was well seen. This year, conditions are much worse at maximum as the moon is full on May 5th. This means that the bright moonlight will obscure all but the brighter meteors. To best see this activity one should view during the last two hours prior to dawn. For most of us located in mid-northern latitudes, this will roughly be 3-5am local daylight saving time. This will allow you to see the most possible activity which should be near 10-15 per hour from mid-northern latitudes and up to 30 per hour for southern tropical locations. While the peak is predicted to occur on May 6, the week centered on this date will also provide rates near 10 per hour. By May 10, hourly rates will fall below 10 per hour and will slowly fall as the month progresses.

The above chart displays the eastern half of the sky near 4:00am local daylight saving time on the morning of May 6th as seen from mid-northern latitudes. Morning twilight will have just begun for higher northern latitudes, but those further south can view for another hour or so before the sky becomes too light. The “golden star” represents the area of the sky where eta Aquariid meteors emanate from. The lines represent examples of eta Aquariid meteors. They can be seen in all areas of the sky, but will all trace back to this area. It is suggested that you view toward the northeast to southeast quadrant of the sky with the center of your field of view about half-way up. This way the radiant area will be within your field of view, allowing you to easily determine which meteors are Aquariids an which are not.

This year may prove interesting as we enter a two year period in which the eta Aquariids should experience increased activity. This is the reason the expected rates are similar to last year when no moon was present. The reason for this increased activity is that during the next two years the Earth will encounter particles of Halley’s Comet that have been perturbed by the giant planet Jupiter into an orbit that is closer to the Earth. According to Bill Cooke, the lead for the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, these meteors were produced by the return of Halley’s comet in the year 390 BC.*

*Eta Aquarid meteor shower 2023: Where, when and how to see it, https://www.space.com/36502-eta-aquarid-meteor-shower-guide.html Accessed 2023/04/29

The potential increase in activity may also interest radio meteor scatter observers located in mid-northern latitudes as the radiant lies in a favorable zone in the sky for approximately six hours centered at 08:00. Note that this timing is entirely during daylight this time of year when the meteors cannot be seen visually. This zone is centered at an elevation of 45 degrees above the horizon. Radio rates at higher or lower elevations will be less than when the radiant is located near 45 degrees elevation. For more information on radio meteor scatter visit: https://www.imo.net/observations/methods/radio-observation/

This year serious observers can help us determine the effect that bright moonlight has upon observers of meteor activity. The International Meteor Organization is conducting a project for observers who view under bright moonlight during major meteor shower activity. You simply need to view for at least one hour and estimate your limiting magnitude every 30 minutes. This is easily done by counting the number of stars visible with certain areas of the sky. Charts for these areas are available at: https://www.imo.net/observations/methods/visual-observation/major/observation/#table1. Area 6 on chart #6 would be the easiest to use. Using more than one area is also encouraged to provide more estimates. Of course these limiting magnitude estimates can be attempted at all hours of the night, whether the moon is visible or not. You should expect to achieve better results (higher magnitude estimates) when the moon is below the horizon. The conversion table is available in Table 2 on the link provided above. Helpful tips for visual observing are also available at: https://www.imo.net/observations/methods/visual-observation/ and https://www.imo.net/observations/methods/visual-observation/major/observation/. In order to submit your observations we suggest that you fill out a visual meteor report form provided by the International Meteor Organization. You must register to provide your data, but there is a free option for those not wishing to subscribe to the IMO Journal. ALPO also accepts observations emailed directly to: Robert Lunsford

We wish you good luck and look forward to seeing your viewing results!

 
 

April 28, 2023

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook, click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for April 29 – May 5, 2023

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

April 21, 2023

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook, click on:  Meteor Activity Outlook for April 22-28, 2023

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

The Lyrids are particles shed from comet 1861 G1 Thatcher, which last passed through the inner solar system in 1861. Don’t expect this comet to return anytime soon as its orbit has been calculated to be near 415 years!

Two years after the last passage of the comet through the inner solar system, an impressive display of Lyrid meteors was observed. This helped link the relationship between this comet and the Lyrids. It was also noted that another impressive display of the Lyrids had occurred in 1803, 60 years prior. Despite these facts, no one was looking for enhanced rates from the Lyrids in the early 1920’s. Yet in 1922, another strong Lyrid display occurred. You would have thought by now that astronomers would be eagerly anticipating the early 1980’s for more enhanced Lyrid activity. But unfortunately, meteor studies tend to fall off the grid, even with the tremendous Leonid display of 1966. So again in 1982, meteor watchers were caught off guard when another Lyrid outburst occurred. I can only hope that during the early 2040’s that we will be on guard for another grand meteor display from the Lyrids!

So, what is one to expect from Lyrid displays between these outbursts? Probably not much. There have been unverified reports of lesser outbursts which have led us to think that there may be debris from this comet trapped in shorter orbits with a 12- or 20-year return period. Therefore, we suggest that potential observers observe the Lyrids at every opportunity just in case something unusual occurs.

The normal Lyrid display, seen under moonless conditions, usually offers a peak of around 10 meteors per hour in addition to the normal random meteor rate of about 5 per hour. In 2023, the peak is predicted to occur near 01:00 Universal Time on April 23rd.* This corresponds to 9pm EDT and 6pm PDT on the evening of April 22nd. The peak is sharp, only a few hours long, so don’t be surprised if you see far less than 10 Lyrids per hour. Yet when compared to the normal low activity seen during the late winter and early spring nights, the nights around April 23rd offer a nice bit of entertainment to help one stay awake. On April 23rd, the Lyrid radiant actually lies among the stars of eastern Hercules. There are no bright stars to pinpoint the radiant, yet the brilliant zero magnitude star known as Vega only lies 8 degrees to the northeast.The best strategy to see these meteors is to view from the darkest site possible. The more stars you see, the more meteors will be visible. View as late as possible (4-5am local daylight time is best) when the radiant is located highest in the sky. If you are limited to more civilized hours, then start around 10pm. At that time the radiant lies low in the northeastern sky and a majority of the activity will be blocked by the horizon. If you are lucky, you may still see a couple of these meteors shoot upward from the radiant.

*Rendtel, Jürgen, IMO 2023 Meteor Shower Calendar, Page 7 https://www.imo.net/files/meteor-shower/cal2023.pdf

Between midnight and dawn, Lyrid meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky. If you face away from the radiant it is difficult to tell if the meteors you see belong to the Lyrid shower. Therefore, it is suggested that you face in the general direction of the Lyrid radiant, which will lie high in the northeastern sky as seen from mid-northern latitudes. That way you can easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant to see if it was a Lyrid or not. You don’t need to stare directly at the radiant as Lyrid meteors seen there will be short and often missed. Meteors seen further from their radiant are longer and easier to see.

Compared to other meteor showers, the Lyrids tend to produce bright meteors and an occasional fireball. This makes them easier to see and photograph. While the average Lyrid is fairly bright, this shower is not photogenic unless you take time exposures during maximum activity. The brightest meteors will show up well in prints but most of the captured meteors will only appear as faint streaks. Attaching your camera to a driven mount is highly recommended as this will keep the stars as pinpoints and the meteors as streaks.

The moon often interferes with viewing meteor showers as bright moonlight can obscure all but the brighter meteors. Such was the case in 2021 and 2022 with the Lyrids. This year however, on April 23rd, the moon is a waxing crescent phase and will set during the late evening hours. This is long before the Lyrid radiant rises high into the sky.

Should the morning of maximum activity be cloudy, the next night will usually see a falloff of approximately 50 percent. This is also true for the Lyrids with maximum hourly rates of only 2-3 on the morning of the 24th. Rates fall with each successive night until activity gradually disappears by the end of the month.

To provide a scientific useful observing session one needs to carefully note the starting and ending time of your session and the time each meteor appears. The type of meteor needs to be recorded as well as its magnitude. Other parameters that can be recorded are colors, velocity (degrees per second or verbal description) and whether the meteor left a persistent train. Fireballs should be noted, and a separate online form filled out after the session here.

Serious observers should watch for at least an hour as numerous peaks and valleys of activity will occur. If you only view for a short time it may coincide with a lull of activity. Watching for at least an hour guarantees you will get to see the best this display has to offer. The serious observer is also encouraged to fill out a visual observing form on the website of the International Meteor Organization. You must register to use the form, but this is free. The registration site is located here: Good luck with your observing attempts!

 
 

April 14, 2023

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook, click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for April 15-21, 2023

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

 
 

April 7, 2023

This post discusses the expected meteor activity and lunar conditions for the upcoming week. It is focused on North American latitudes but may be used in all locations. Sky charts displaying current radiant positions are provided for early evening hours, mid-night, and the hour prior to dawn. European readers may wish to use the charts in the same article at www.imo.net for better accuracy.

To access the meteor activity outlook click on: Meteor Activity Outlook for April 8-14, 2023

We welcome hourly reports on meteor activity at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Reports of individual fireballs should be filled out at: https://fireball.amsmeteors.org/members/imo/report_intro/

Meteor Activity Outlooks for observers in the southern hemisphere are available upon request at: lunro.imo.usa@cox.net

Clear Skies!

Robert Lunsford

ALPO Meteors Section Coordinator

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