February offers the meteor observer in the Northern Hemisphere a couple of weak showers plus falling sporadic rates. This may not seem too exiting but you never know when surprises are in store. An errant earthgrazer from the Centaurid complex may shoot northward. Better yet, a bright fireball may light up the sky. February is the start of the evening fireball season, when an abundance of fireballs seem to occur. This lasts well into April as seen from the northern hemisphere. Sporadic rates are near maximum for those viewing from the Southern hemisphere. There are no strong showers this month, but sporadic rates are in excess of 10 per hour as seen from mid-southern latitudes.
During this period, the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Tuesday February 8th. At that time the moon lies near 90 degrees east of the sun and sets near 01:00 local standard time. This weekend the waxing crescent moon will set during the early evening hours and will not interfere with meteor observing during the more active morning hours. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 2 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 3 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S). For morning observers, the estimated total hourly rates should be near 9 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 12 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S). 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 slightly reduced due to moonlight. Note that the hourly rates listed below are estimates as viewed from dark sky sites away from urban light sources. Observers viewing from urban areas will see less activity as only the brighter meteors will be visible from such locations.
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 5/6. 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. I have also included charts of the sky that display the radiant positions for evening, midnight, and morning. The center of each chart is the sky directly overhead at the appropriate hour. These charts are oriented for facing south but can be used for any direction by rotating the charts to the desired direction. 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 sporadic. Meteor activity is not seen from radiants that are located far 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.
These sources of meteoric activity are expected to be active this week.
The large Anthelion (ANT) is currently centered at 10:00 (150) +11. This position lies in western Leo, just 2 degrees northwest of the 1st magnitude star known as Regulus (alpha Leonis). Due to the large size of this radiant, these meteors may also be seen from Cancer as well as western Leo. This radiant is best placed near 01:00 local standard time (LST) when it lies on the meridian and is highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near 3 per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and 2 per hour as seen from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Anthelion meteor would be of slow velocity.
The December Leonis Minorids (DLM) is a shower of long duration active from December 1st all the way through February 10th. Maximum occurred near December 19th when rates may have reached 3 an hour. During this period, I would expect hourly rates of less than 1 from a radiant located at 13:31 (203) +09. This position lies in northern Virgo, 5 degrees southeast of the 3rd magnitude star known as Vindemiatrix (epsilon Virginis). These meteors are best seen near 0500 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. At 64 km/sec. the December Leonis Minorids produce mostly swift meteors.
The alpha Centaurids (ACE) are active from January 31-February 20, with maximum activity occurring on February 8th. The radiant is currently located at 13:56 (209) -59. This position lies in southern Centaurus, 2 degrees northwest of the 1st magnitude star known as Hadar (beta Centauri. Due to the southern declination of this radiant, these meteors are not well seen in the northern hemisphere. Current hourly rates are expected to be less than 1 as seen from the Northern Hemisphere and possibly as high as 5 as seen from south of the equator. These meteors are best seen near 05:00 LST when the radiant lies highest above the horizon. At 56 km/sec. the alpha Centaurids would produce mostly swift meteors.
As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately 7 sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near 1 per hour. As seen from the tropical southern latitudes (25S), morning rates should be near 11 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and 2 per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Evening rates are reduced by moonlight during this period.
|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)||—||10:00 (150) +11||30||01:00||2 – 1||II|
|December Leonis Minorids (DLM)||Dec 19||13:31 (203) +09||64||05:00||<1 – <1||II|
|alpha Centaurids (ACE)||Feb 08||13:56 (209) -59||56||06:00||<1 – 3||II|