Meteor Activity Outlook for December 24-30, 2011

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During this period the moon reaches it new phase on Saturday December 24th. At this time the moon will be located near the sun and will be invisible at night. As the week progresses the waxing crescent moon will enter the evening sky but will not interfere with meteor observing as it is thin and will set long before the active morning hours arrive. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near four as seen from the northern hemisphere and three 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 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.

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 December 24/25. 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 particles produced by comet 2P/Encke are no longer encountering the Earth, the Taurid showers for 2011 are over and we resume reporting activity from the Antihelion (ANT) 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 prograde 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 a 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 07:04 (106) +22. This position lies in central Gemini, four degrees west of the fourth magnitude star Wasat (Delta Geminorum). Antihelion activity may also appear from Monoceros, northeastern Orion, Canis Minor, or Cancer. This radiant is best placed near midnight local standard time (LST), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near two per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and one per hour from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of slow velocity.

The December Leonis Minorids (DLM) are active from a radiant located at 11:04 (166) +28. This position lies in eastern Leo Minor, six degrees northwest of the third magnitude star Zosma (Delta Leonis). These meteors are best seen near 0500 local standard time (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.

The last of the Ursids (URS) may be seen this weekend from a radiant located at 14:40 (220) +75. This position lies in eastern Ursa Minor, two degrees north of the second magnitude star Kochab (Beta Ursa Minoris). These meteors are best seen during the last dark hour before dawn, when the radiant lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. This shower is not well seen from the southern hemisphere. Maximum activity is on Friday December 23th, so hourly rates this weekend would probably be less than one. On the morning of maximum, hourly rates of between 5-10 Ursids may be seen. At 33 km/sec. the Ursids produce mostly medium-slow meteors.

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 three per hour. As seen from the mid-southern hemisphere (45S), morning rates would be near seven 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.

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

RA (RA in Deg.) DEC Km/Sec Local Standard Time North-South
Antihelions (ANT) 07:04 (106) +22 30 00:00 2 – 1 II
December Leonis Minorids (DLM) Dec 20 11:04 (166) +28 64 05:00 2 – <1 II
Ursids (URS) Dec 23 14:40 (220) +75 33 08:00 <1 – <1 I



  • Donald Sieber 5 years ago

    An interesting combination of devices to use is an Orion all sky camera with a 6 hour vhs video recording capability along with a radio meteor receiver pointed toward the radiant laying down the audio track at the same time. This is my current setup and hope to get some data soon.

    Reply to Donald
  • Ralf 5 years ago

    wer hat heute Abend auch die leuchterscheinung am südlichen himmel gesehen … so gegen 17.30

    Reply to Ralf
  • tony marko 5 years ago

    oh my. I live in massapequa new york. I just seen a bright, very bright orange ball of light travel from north west to southeast, approx 6:55pm. It was huge, traveled fast, lit up the sky, and lasted forever. the bright orange faded after over a minute into just a ball of faded light buy it kept on going as far as my eyes can see. it was great……

    Reply to tony
  • eliede pounds 5 years ago

    My stepson Chet saw a very bright orange ball on Saturday night around 8:30 pm in Coarsegold, California. It had a tail behind it and lit up the whole area. It was awesome. It was in the area of the Fresno River and Rd 415.

    Reply to eliede

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