During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Sunday February 17th. At this time the moon is located ninety degrees east of the sun and sets near midnight local standard time (LST) as seen from mid-northern latitudes. As the week progresses the waxing gibbous moon will set during the early morning hours, allowing a few hours of dark skies between the time of moon set and the beginning of morning twilight. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near two as seen from the northern hemisphere and four as seen from south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near eight from the mid-northern hemisphere and seventeen from the mid-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. Evening rates are reduced during this period 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 16/17. 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 Anthelion (ANT) radiant is currently centered at 10:44 (161) +07. This position lies in southern Leo, ten degrees southeast of the first magnitude star Regulus (Alpha Leonis). These meteors may be seen all night long but the radiant is best placed near 0100 LST when it lies on the meridian and is 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 Alpha Centaurids (ACE) are active from a radiant located at 14:43 (221) -62. This position lies in southeastern Centaurus, very close to the position occupied by the zero magnitude star Rigel Kentaurus (Alpha Centauri). These meteors cannot be seen north of the northern tropical regions. They are best seen from mid-southern latitudes where the radiant lies high in the sky near 0500 local summer time. This shower peaked on February 8th so current rates would be near one per hour as seen from the southern hemisphere. At 56km/sec. the Alpha Centaurids would produce mostly swift meteors.
The Beta Herculids are active through Tuesday from a radiant located at 15:52 (238) +28. This position is actually located in Corona Borealis, four degrees northeast of the second magnitude star Alphecca (Alpha Coronae Borealis). It is suggested that the observer be liberal with shower association as the actual radiant position is not well defined. These meteors are best seen near during the last dark hour before dawn when the radiant lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Rates would mostly likely be less than one shower member per hour, no matter your location. Observers in the northern hemisphere have an advantage in that the radiant lies higher in the sky during the morning hours. At 56 km/sec. the Beta Herculids would produce mostly swift meteors.
The IMO video list of radiants has several entries for the Delta Serpentids (DSE). On most nights of possible activity this shower is extremely weak, far less than the weak sporadic rate seen this time of year from the northern hemisphere. On the morning of the February 16th though, it becomes the second most active radiant in the sky. At that time the radiant is located at 16:37 (249) +09, which actually places it in among the stars of Ophiuchus. The nearest bright stars are fourth magnitude Kappa and Iota Ophiuchi, which lie six degrees to the east. This position is well seen from either side of the equator. These meteors are best seen near during the last dark hour before dawn when the radiant lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. On other mornings rates for this shower are so weak that the chance of sporadic alignment is extremely high. At 57 km/sec. the Delta Serpentids would produce mostly swift meteors.
As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately six sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near one 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 three per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Rates are reduced during the evening hours 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 .
|SHOWER||DATE OF MAXIMUM ACTIVITY||CELESTIAL POSITION||ENTRY VELOCITY||CULMINATION||HOURLY RATE||CLASS|
|RA (RA in Deg.) DEC||Km/Sec||Local Standard Time||North-South|
|Anthelions (ANT)||-||10:44 (161) +07||30||01:00||1 – 1||II|
|Alpha Centaurids (ACE)||Feb 08||14:43 (221) -62||56||05:00||<1 – 1||II|
|Beta Herculids (BHE)||Feb 13||15:52 (238) +28||56||06:00||<1 – <1||IV|
|Delta Serpentids (DSE)||Feb 16||16:37 (249) +09||57||07:00||1 – 1||IV|