With the arrival of March, we reach the nadir of meteor activity for the year. No matter your location, March has the lowest mean meteor rates of any month of the year. The only reasonable activity is produced by the Eclipticid radiant, now located in Virgo. Even this activity is only 2-3 shower members at best. At least this is one of the prime times for fireballs. From February through April, fireballs are frequently reported during the evening hours.

The moon reaches its new phase on Wednesday March 29. At that time the moon will be in conjunction with the sun and will not be visible at night. This weekend the waning crescent moon will not cause any problems as it is quite thin and does not rise until late in the morning. The estimated total hourly rates for evening observers this week is near two, no matter your location. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near six for those located in the Northern Hemisphere and eight for those in the Southern Hemisphere. These rates assume that you are watching from rural areas away from all sources of light pollution. 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 positions listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning March 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. 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 radiants are active this week:

The Eclipticid (ECL) radiant is now centered at 13:00 (195) -04. This area of the sky is located in central Virgo, three degrees northwest of the fourth magnitude star Theta Virginis. This radiant is best placed near 0100 local standard time when it lies on the meridian and is highest in the sky. Rates should be near two per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Eclipticid meteor would be of medium-slow speed. This radiant is a good source of fireballs now through the end of April. Those who send reports to the I.M.O. should label these meteors as Virginids (VIR).

The Delta Pavonids (DPA) are an obscure shower listed among the radiants of the Dutch Meteor Society. They list the ZHR’s as five but recent observations fail to show much activity at all. The predicted date of maximum activity is March 28. The radiant currently lies at 20:12 (303) -62. This area of the sky is located in central Pavo, five degrees southwest of the second magnitude star Peacock (Alpha Pavonis). This area of the sky is too far south to be seen north of the northern equatorial areas. Only observers living in far southern locations such as Australia, South Africa, and southern South America have any chance of seeing activity from this radiant. The best time to view possible activity is just before the start of morning twilight, when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. With an entry velocity of 60 kilometers per second, a majority of these meteors will appear to move swiftly.

The Sporadic rates for the Northern Hemisphere are now well past their annual peak. One would expect to see perhaps six random meteors per hour during the last hours before dawn from rural observing sites. During the evening hours perhaps two random meteors can be seen per hour. Sporadic rates seen from the Southern Hemisphere are now increasing toward a secondary maximum in July. One would see approximately eight random meteors per hour during the late morning hours and two per hour during the evening.

Clear Skies!

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