(meteorobs) Meteor Activity Outlook for December 26, 2009-January 1, 2010

Robert Lunsford lunro.imo.usa at cox.net
Thu Dec 24 16:45:20 EST 2009

No matter where you live, the first half of December provides some of the best meteor activity of the year. In the northern
hemisphere the sporadic rates are still strong plus you can also count on strong activity from the Geminids, which peak on December
13. There are also several minor radiants that add a few meteors each hour. All of these centers of activity are located high in the
sky during the early morning hours this time of year. Unfortunately this year the bright moon spoils the show during the first week
of the month. During the second week of December the moon will pass its last quarter phase and will not be such a nuisance .

As seen from the southern hemisphere the sporadic rates are increasing toward a January maximum. Shower rates are also good but the
Geminids suffer a bit from the lower elevation seen from southern locations. Still with the warmer weather now occurring south of
the equator, December is a great time to view celestial fireworks.

During this period the moon reaches its full phase on Thursday December 31st. On that date the moon lies opposite the sun and is in
the sky the entire night. This weekend the waxing gibbous moon sets during the early morning hours allowing a couple of hours of
viewing in dark conditions before the onset of morning twilight. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is
near three no matter your location. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near twenty from the northern
hemisphere and fifteen 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. Rates are reduced this week due
to moonlight.

The radiant positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning December 26/27. These positions do not
change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period. Most star atlases (available at science
stores and planetariums) will provide maps with grid lines of the celestial coordinates so that you may find out exactly where these
positions are located in the sky. A planisphere or computer planetarium program is also useful in showing the sky at any time of
night on any date of the year. Activity from each radiant is best seen when it is positioned highest in the sky, either due north or
south along the meridian, depending on your latitude. It must be remembered that meteor activity is rarely seen at the radiant
position. Rather they shoot outwards from the radiant so it is best to center your field of view so that the radiant lies at the
edge and not the center. Viewing there will allow you to easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant (if it is a shower
member) or in another direction if it is a sporadic. Meteor activity is not seen from radiants that are located below the horizon.
The positions below are listed in a west to east manner in order of right ascension (celestial longitude). The positions listed
first are located further west therefore are accessible earlier in the night while those listed further down the list rise later in
the night.

The following showers are expected to be active this week:

Now that the activity from particles produced by comet 2P/Encke has ceased encountering the Earth, the Taurid showers for 2009 are
over and we resume reporting activity from the Antihelion radiant. This is not a true radiant but rather activity caused by the
Earth's motion through space. As the Earth revolves around the sun it encounters particles orbiting in a pro-grade motion that are
approaching their perihelion point. They all appear to be radiating from an area near the opposition point of the sun, hence the
name Antihelion. These were once recorded as separate showers throughout the year but it is now suggested to bin them into their
category separate from true showers and sporadics. This radiant is a very large oval some thirty degrees wide by fifteen degrees
high. Activity from this radiant can appear from more than one constellation. The position listed here is for the center of the
radiant which is currently located at 07:12 (108) +22. This position lies in central Gemini, two degrees west of the fourth
magnitude star Delta Geminorum. Since the radiant is so large, Antihelion activity may also appear from eastern Taurus, northeastern
Orion, western Cancer, or southern Auriga. This radiant is best placed near 0100 local standard time (LST) when it lies on the
meridian and is highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near three per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and two
per hour from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of slow speed.

Activity from the Alpha Hydrids (AHY) begin to appear on the morning of December 30th. This shower reaches maximum activity on the
31st from a radiant located at 08:24 (126) -08. This position lies in extreme western Hydra, fifteen degrees west of the second
magnitude star Alphard (Alpha Hydrae). These meteors are best seen near 0200 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon.
Due to the intense moonlight present at maximum, hourly rates from this shower will be less than one per hour no matter your
location. At 45 km/sec. the Alpha Hydrids produce meteors of medium velocity.

The December Leonis Minorids (DLM) are active from a radiant located at 11:10 (168) +27. This position lies in a blank area of the
sky where the borders of Leo Minor, Leo, and Ursa Major meet. The nearest bright stars are Nu and Xi Ursae Majoris which lie five
degrees to the northeast. These meteors are best seen near 0500 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. This shower
peaked on December 20th so current rates would be near two per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and less than one per hour
as seen from south of the equator. At 64 km/sec. the December Leonis Minorids produce mostly swift meteors.

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

The table below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday
night/Sunday morning but may be used all week long.

Antihelion (ANT)) - 07:12 (108) +22   Velocity - 30km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere - 3 per hr. Southern Hemisphere - 2 per hr.

Alpha Hydrids (AHY) - 08:24 (126) -08    Velocity - 45km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere - <1 per hr. Southern Hemisphere - <1 per hr.

December Leonis Minorids (DLM) - 11:10 (168) +27   Velocity - 64km/sec.
Northern Hemisphere - 2 per hr. Southern Hemisphere - <1 per hr.

*For a detailed explanation on the different classes of meteor showers and other astronomical terms, please visit:

Clear Skies!
Robert Lunsford
American Meteor Society

More information about the Meteorobs mailing list