Meteor Activity Outlook for May 21-27, 2011

During this period the moon reaches its last quarter phase on Tuesday May 24th. At this time the moon will lie ninety degrees west of the sun and will rise near 0100 local daylight time (LDT) for observers at mid-northern latitudes. This weekend the waning gibbous moon will seriously interfere with meteor observing as the fainter meteors will be obscured by the lunar glare. As the week progresses conditions will improve and the moon wanes and rises later in the morning. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near three as seen from the northern hemisphere and four as seen from the southern hemisphere. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near four from the northern hemisphere and nine as seen from south of the equator. 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. Morning rates are reduced 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 May 21/22. 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 shower is expected to be active this week:

The wide Antihelion (ANT) radiant is now centered at 16:56 (254) -22. This area of the sky lies in southwestern Ophiuchus, six degrees northeast of the first magnitude orange star Antares (Alpha Scorpii). This radiant is best placed near 0200 LDT when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Due to the large size of this radiant, any meteor radiating from eastern Libra, northern Lupus, southern Ophiuchus, southern Sagittarius, or Scorpius could be a candidate for this shower. Rates at this time should be near one per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and two per hour as seen from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Antihelion meteor would be of medium-slow speed.

AAs seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately three 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 seven 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. Morning rates are reduced 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
Antihelion (ANT) - 16:56 (254) -22 30 0200 1 - 2 II