Meteor Activity Outlook for February 25-March 2, 2012
- As seen from the northern hemisphere, March is the slowest month for meteor activity. No major annual showers are active and only two very weak minor showers produce activity this month. The sporadic rates are also near their annual minimum so there is not much to look forward to this month except for the evening fireballs that seem to peak this time of year from the northern hemisphere. This could be due to the fact the Antiapex radiant lies highest above the horizon this time of year during the evening hours. From the southern hemisphere, activity from the Centaurid complex begins to wane with only the weak activity visible from Norma and perhaps others areas nearby. At least southern sporadic rates are still strong to make the late summer viewing a bit more pleasurable.
During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Thursday March 1st. At that time the moon will be located ninety degrees east of the sun and will set near 0100 local standard time (LST) from mid-northern latitudes. This weekend the waxing crescent moon will set during the late evening hours and will not interfere with meteor observations during the more active morning hours. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near three for observers in the northern hemisphere and five for those south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near six as seen from mid-northern latitudes and fifteen 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.
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 25/26. 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:
The large Antihelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 11:20 (170) +03. This position in southeastern Leo is very easy to find as the brilliant planet Mars currently lies only five degrees to the north. Due to the large size of this radiant, Antihelion activity may also appear from Crater, Sextans, southwestern Coma Berenicids, and western Virgo as well as Leo. This radiant is best placed near 0100 local standard time (LST), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near one per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of slow velocity.
The Gamma Normids (GNO) is a weak shower best seen from the southern hemisphere. This shower is only visible south of forty degrees north latitude. The further one is located south (down to 50S) the better the radiant is situated in the sky. Expected rates from the southern hemisphere is currently less than one per hour, even with the radiant located high in the sky. The current radiant position lies at 15:36 (234) -53. This position lies in western Norma, five degrees east of the third magnitude star Zeta Lupi. The radiant is best placed
during the last dark hour before dawn, when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. At 56km/sec. the Gamma Normids would produce mostly swift meteors.
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 four per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures.
The list below presents a condensed version of the expected activity this week.
Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning.
Antihelion (ANT) - 11:20 (170) +03 Velocity 30km/sec
Northern Hemisphere - 1 per hr Southern Hemisphere - 1 per hour
Gamma Normids (GNO) 15:36 (234) -53 Velocity 56km/sec
Northern Hemisphere - <1 per hr Southern Hemisphere - <1 per hour
International Meteor Organization