Meteor

Visual Observation

Unaided eye observation of meteors is easy and a good way to learn the constellations so great for beginners.

Planning:

Use the meteor diary on this page to plan when to observe. A dark site is preferred as light polluted skies will flood out the numerous faint meteors and reduce meteor rates observed, so consider driving to a darker site.

Print off the radiant map from the BAA Meteor Section, if the meteor can be traced back to this area then it is from the shower otherwise it is a sporadic, note if you are observing before or after the predicted peak then an adjustment is needed and these can be found in the BAA handbook. Make sure you can recognise this area in the sky when you actually observe.

Equipment Check list

  1. Norton’s 2000.0 Star Atlas
  2. Report Sheets
  3. Watch or clock – accurate to better than 30s and corrected just before you observe (remember to log observations in UT – get in the habit of always writing ‘UT’ after the time to remove any doubt later
  4. Red torch
  5. Several soft pencils (and a sharpener)
  6. mp3 player with voice recorder can be useful to note anything special, start recording, do a time check in the microphone and keep recording for the whole night, regular spoken time checks will help later, this gives you a datum if you need to check your log or if you are describing the meteors and want to log these descriptions.
  7. Deck chair, there is nothing worse that standing up all night with your head back, sit laid back in a nice deck chair.
  8. Warm Clothing – and a blanket (don’t nod off though!)
  9. Food and a flash of hot drink.
  10. A stick about 600mm in length, to help trace back the meteor.
  11. Clip board

Observing tips:

  1. Patience. You might face long intervals between meteors (or clouds – remember to note if it is cloudy).
  2. Concentration. Faint meteors are observed not just ‘seen’, they are easy to miss if you don’t concentrate. If you are tired, cold, or nodding off, stop observing, take a break and have some coffee. It is better to report good observations for a shorter period than a long period where you weren’t really concentrating.
  3. Accuracy. Eyesight and perception vary amongst observers, only report your observations not those that you hear from other observers but didn’t actually see, it isn’t a competition, you are aiming for a true record of what you observed.

Observing

Once at the site, use the time that you spend getting dark adapted to record your name, address, and observing site (including latitude and longitude), and date on a few report sheets.. Note the sky conditions, mentioning whether any cloud, moonlight, fog or mist is present. Once you are fully dark-adapted, estimate the magnitude, to the nearest 0.25 mag, of the faintest star you can see in the area of sky being watched (not the zenith). Now you are ready to begin the meteor watch.

Write down the start time of the watch in UT to the nearest minute and using 24hr clock notation. Record the date in the double date format i.e. 2009/08/12-13 (night of the 12th, morning of the 13), this reduces confusion later.

Solo observers should watch the sky 50 degrees above the horizon (about the same altitude as the pole star in the UK), and 30-40 degrees to one side of the shower radiant expected to be active on the night in question this is the best place to see meteors.

As each meteor appears, note whether it was a shower member or a random sporadic, estimate how bright it was, and give its time of appearance to the nearest minute in UT.

Shower or sporadic meteor?

Project the path of the meteor backwards (a stick helps), If the projected path intersects the 8-degree radiant circle, the meteor is a shower member. Otherwise it is a sporadic.

Magnitude

Estimate meteor magnitudes by comparison with nearby stars. Only a rough estimate is necessary ( nearest magnitude). The following comparisons might be useful.

-12.5 Full Moon
-4 Venus
-2 Jupiter
-1 Sirius, Capella, Rigel, Arcturus
+1 Regulus, Spica, Pollux
+2 Belt stars of Orion, Beta Aurigae, Gamma Geminorum, Pointers of Plough, Polaris
+3 Delta Ursae Majoris, Gamma and Delta Leonis, Epsilon Geminorum
+4 Eta Persei, Delta Aurigae, Rho Leonis
+5 Faintest meteors generally visible to naked eye

Time

Note the time of the meteor

Description

Once you have the type, magnitude and time of the meteor noted you can record you description, for example..
• Did it explode?
• Did it have an intense colour?
• Did it have a long-duration persistent train?

Reporting:

Please submit your observations to the BAA Meteor Section as soon as possible after you have made them and to the Society at the next society night.

At the end of the watch, note the time to the nearest minute. Then you can stop, or have a break and start another watch later. Ideally, watches should last for an hour, or multiples of an hour, at a time. Monitor the sky conditions during each watch, as these may change.

Automated Observation:

Meteor Camera:

We operate an automated meteor camera at the pavilion, this camera and our meteor group are open to any members interested in helping reduce the results.

Radio Meteors:

If you are interested in observing meteors with radio please check out these pages.

 

Main Meteor Showers

Name
(link to dedicated page)
Dates Peak dates
(link to radiant map)
RA DEC Speed (km/s) ZHR Rating
Quadrantids 1 January-5 January 3 January 15:20 +49 41 120 Strong
Virginids 1 March-15 April several 13:00 -04 30 5 Medium
Lyrids 15 April-28 April 22 April 18:04 +34 49 15 Strong
Eta Aquarids 19 April-28 May 6 May 22:32 -01 66 60 Strong
Alpha Scorpiids 1 May-31 May 16 May 16:12 -21 35 5 Medium
Theta Ophiuchids 4 June-15 July 29 June 16:36 -15 29 2 Weak
Alpha Cygnids 11 July-30 July 18 July 20:20 +47 37 2 Weak
Sigma Capricornids 15 July-11 August 20 July 20:28 -15 30 5 Weak
South Delta Aquarids 12 July-19 August 28 July 22:36 -16 41 20 Strong
Alpha Capricornids 3 July-15 August 30 July 20:28 -10 23 4 Medium
North Delta Aquarids 15 July-25 August 8 August 22:20 -05 42 4 Medium
Perseids 17 July-24 August 12 August Radiant Map 03:04 +58 59 90 Strong
Piscids 1 September-30 September 20 September 00:32 +00 26 3 Medium
Orionids 2 October-7 November 21 October 06:20 +16 66 20 Strong
Northern Taurids 1 November-25 November 12 November 03:52 +22 29 5 Medium
Leonids 14 November-21 November 17 November 10:12 +22 71 variable Irregular
Puppid-velids 2 December-16 December 12 December 09:00 -46 40 4 Medium
Geminids 7 December-17 December 14 December Radiant Map 07:28 +33 35 120 Strong
Ursids 17 December-26 December 22 December 14:28 +76 33 10 Strong

 

2018 Perseid Meteor Report

Interim Report This year was the first year of successful operation of the Dick Chambers Observatory Automated Meteor Camera coordinated by Janice McClean. This is an interim report and may be replaced as more information on the Perseid’s captured comes in from...

2013 Perseid Report

What is astonishing about this image is that in 8 seconds Kevin has also captured the Milkyway which in his neck of the woods is washed out with light pollution. Simon Dawes left his automated radio meteor observations to do the work and checked up later in August...

2012 Perseid Report

Report by Simon Dawes On holiday in Austria, clouded out, however my automated radio meteor observations continued to run 24hrs per day while I was away, this year was more successful than last, primarily due to the Yagi now being mounted on a mast. Frequency 143.049...

2011 Draconids Report

Draconids The Draconids, also known as the Giacobinids, after the parent comet, are a variable meteor shower, the parent body being comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, occasionally the Earth passes through denser clumps of material from 21P/Giacobini-Zinner and these have...

2011 Perseid Report

This year was a challenging year for observing, the moon was full and most of the country was cloudy. Clouded out for visual observations Simon Dawes was on holiday on Guernsey but his automated radio meteor logging station in Bexleyheath, Kent, England, did observe...

2010 Perseid Report

Reports from members of the 2010 Perseid meteor shower. I observed on the 12th from 22.15 to 22.45 UT and saw 6 Perseids plus one sporadic. The sky was wonderfully clear and so variables won the day (or should I say night?). Roger Pickard I was out from about ten...

2009 Geminid Report

Sunday 13th December 20:00Hrs – Monday 14th December 04:00Hrs Despite the cloud, a total of 67 Geminids were observed by Members, with 6 captured photographically. Visual     Information on all the visual meteors recorded on the night of 13-14 December...

2001 Leonid Report

A number of Society Members were able to take advantage of the November 2001 Leonid Storm by visiting the island of Palau in Micronesia in the Pacific. From there, Jean and Brian Felles were able to take these stunning shots. Note that these are not compilations of...

Slideshow

All images are copyright. Permission must be sought to from the image owner to the use of any of these images.