2016: Meteors

SELECTED METEOR SHOWERS IN 2016

A work in progress.  Apologies if there are errors or omissions, but when I started compiling the list I had no idea there were so many of these things.  There are a few abbreviations in this list of which you should be made aware.  RA = right ascension (the celestial equivalent of longitude); Dec = declination (latitude, but projected onto the celestial sphere); ZHR = zenithal hourly rate (the most you are likely to see under perfect conditions).


Quadrantids    –    Max Jan 4 (early morning).  RA 15h 28m,   Dec +50°.    The radiant of this shower is in the constellation Boötes, but the shower is named after the now unused Quadrans Muralis, just past the end of the handle of the plough (bear’s tail, or big dipper, depending on your personal preference) in Ursa Major.


Delta Cancrids   –   Max Jan 17.   RA 08h 40m,  Dec +20°.    You might see one or two of these any time from mid-December to mid-February, but even at their peak you shouldn’t expect more than three or four an hour.   The radiant is in Cancer, which is not a great place for obvious stars to use as pointers, but if you know where the Beehive Cluster is, you’re right on target.


Alpha Hydrids   –   Never likely to set the skies ablaze with fireballs, this weak shower might at best reward you with 4 or 5 meteors an hour.  Although in theory the shower lasts throughout the second half of January, I’d stick to the 20th for your best chance.


Delta Leonids   –   Max Feb 22.   RA 11h 12m,  Dec +18°.      You might get five an hour if you’re lucky.  The radiant is further down towards the back end of the lion than the November Leonids.


Lyrids   –   Max April 22 to 23.  RA 18h 08m,    Dec +32°.    This shower has an easier to find radiant than most, because it’s near to the very bright star Vega, in the constellation Lyra.  Average peak rates are around ten per hour.


Eta Aquarids   –   Max May 6 to 7.   RA 22h 20m,   Dec  -01°.   One of two showers produced by the passage of Halley’s Comet (the others are the Orionids).  Although just about visible from Northern latitudes, you’ll get a much better hourly rate from south of the equator.


Camelopardalids – RA 08h 16m, Dec +79°.  This was a new shower for 2014, caused by Earth passing through debris left behind by comet 209P/ LINEAR a century ago. The astronomical press was buzzing with the potential of over 100 meteors an hour, but that didn’t quite happen. There doesn’t seem to be much news out there of what we can expect in 2016.


Ophiuchids   –   Max June 20.   RA 17h 20m,   Dec -20°.     Not the most prolific shower around, but you might get lucky every decade or so, as this shower has a habit of producing slow, bright meteors and fireballs.


June Boötids   –   Max June 28,   RA 14 56,   Dec +58°.    Very variable, with a zenith hourly rate (ZHR) of about 2, but the potential to explode on the scene every few decades with a ZHR of up to 100.


Alpha Capricornids   –   Max Aug 02 to 03.   RA 20h 36m,   Dec -10°.    Best viewed from the southern hemisphere, and the probable result of the disintegration of half of comet 169P/NEAT, the Capricornids have generally low ZHRs in single figures.


Southern Delta Aquariids  –   Max July 28 to 29, RA 22h 36m, Dec -17°.  Can potentially be seen anytime between July 14 and August 18.  Maximum hourly rate of about 15 to 20.  I’m not the Spelling Police, so it’s up to you whether you call them Aquarids or Aquariids.


Northern Delta Aquariids  –  Max Aug 06.   RA 23h 04m,  Dec +02°.  Last from July 16 to September 10.  Not as frequent as the Southerns, with a max rate of about 10 an hour.


Piscis Australids   –   Max July 31.   RA 22h 40m,   Dec -30°.  We’re talking about the “alpha Piscis Australids here: there are six other radiants to choose from during July and August.


Alpha Capricornids   –   Maximum occurs on August 2nd to 3rd, but the shower persists from mid-July to September.   RA 20h 36m,   Dec -10°.  It was first identified in 1871 by the Hungarian astronomer Miklos Konkoly-Thege, and it is known that these meteors originate from comet 169P/NEAT.


Iota Aquarids   –   Max Aug 6.   Two radiants for this one: a northern (RA 22h 04m,  Dec -06°) and southern (RA 22h 10m, Dec -15°).  Neither stream is particularly well-populated; you might get ten an hour at maximum.


Perseids   –   (Radiant: RA 03h 13m (48°),   Dec +58°)    Early- to mid-August is the time to be craning your neck in the general direction of Perseus to catch the annual (and usually quite good compared to most showers at this time of year) firework display by the debris from comet Swift-Tuttle.  The Perseids (or Tears of St Lawrence, if you feel so inclined) will be reaching a peak on August 12 to 13, and are usually the best shower of the summer.


Kappa Cygnids   –   Not the most heavily populated shower of the year, with average hourly rates of six at the peak.  In fact, it isn’t absolutely certain that this shower even appears every year.  Max Aug 17.   RA 19h 04m (286°),   Dec +59°.


Draconids  –  Formed from the cast-offs of comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, this shower peaks on October 7 this year, and can be seen by looking in the direction of the brightest two stars in the constellation of Draco, the dragon.


Delta Aurigids  –  Active from October 10th to 18th.  Maximum on October 11th.


Orionids   –   Theoretically these are visible from October 2nd to November 7th, but your best chance will be from October 21 to 22, when they will be at their peak.  The Orionids originate from Halley’s comet, and were first recognised as a distinct shower in October 1839.    RA 06h 24m (95◦),   Dec +15°.


Taurids   –   ZHR will be on November 4, but you might catch one anytime between mid-September and early December.    RA 03h 44m,   Dec +14°.  Sometimes known as Hallowe’en fireballs because of their timing, this rather spread out stream of debris is associated with comet Encke. The later Northern Taurids will probably not produce many more than about 5 meteors per hour under good seeing conditions.


Leonids   –   Maximum activity will be around November 17th and 18th, with the radiant placed conveniently within the “sickle” of the home constellation.    RA 10h 08m,   Dec +22°.  Associated with comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, these meteors can sometimes produce incredible storms.  The Leonid storm of 1833 was one of the most spectacular astronomical events ever viewed from Earth, with tens of thousands per hour at the peak. And more recently the 1999 event was none too shabby, with a peak of more than 2000 per hour. And so, having whetted your appetite for Leonids, I will now mention they run to a 33-year cycle, and we are currently (2015) about halfway through, meaning you probably won’t be seeing a storm of fireballs anytime soon.


Alpha Monocerotids   –   2015 might be a good year for this shower.  It tends to produce zenithal hourly rates of about 100 an hour every ten years.  Maximum should be on  November 21 or 22.    RA 07h 48m,   Dec +1°.


Sigma Hydrids  –  Maximum is usually on or around December 6th, but the shower is active from November 26th to December 20th.  The radiant is located at α 127◦, δ+02◦ .


Puppids-Velids   –   (or the Alpha Puppids).  Visible between Dec 9 and 26.    RA 09h 00m,   Dec -48°. Mainly a Southern hemisphere spectacle.  The shower has a collection of radiants within the constellations of Puppis (the “stern”) and Vela (the “sails”).  Along with Carina (the “keel”) and, according to some, Pyxis (the “compass”) they previously made up the constellation of Argo Navis (the ship of Jason and the Argonauts).


Monocerotids   –   From around Dec 7th to 18th.  Peaks around Dec 9th.    RA 07h 59m,    Dec +8°.


Geminids   –   Max Dec 14.    RA 07h 32m,   Dec +33°.  2015 is expected to be a good year for Geminid spotting, as seeing conditions should be favourable, thanks to a new Moon on the 11th (but always assuming the clouds play ball).


Comae Berenicids  –  Active from December 12th to 23rd, with the maximum on December 16th.  The ZHR is a miserly 3.  Radiant: RA (α) 175◦ , Dec (δ) +18◦.


Ursids   –   This shower lasts from December 17th to 26th, with the maximum on Dec 21 to 22.    RA 14h 28m,   Decl +78.  The radiant is located near the star Beta Ursae Minoris, also known as Kochab, which has the distinction of once having been a “co-pole star” with Pherkad (Gamma Ursae Minoris).


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