Seen a Meteor or Fireball? Send a report to Jennie McCormick! Report Form
Normally a small number of "sporadic" meteors can be seen each hour of a moonless night. Sporadics are likely to be seen in any part of the sky. During a shower the number of meteors visible may increase considerably. The meteors will appear to originate from a small area of the sky, called the radiant. The spreading out from the radiant is a perspective effect due to the meteors travelling in parallel lines but as they approach the observer they appear to fan out. The shower is named after the constellation which contains the radiant. In general the meteor trails do not start from the radiant, but a few degrees from it.
The list of meteor showers shows some visible from the southern hemisphere. It includes the range of dates when the shower is active, and the peak date. The possible number of meteors per hour at the peak is also shown. It is known as the Zenith Hour Rate, ZHR, and is the number to be expected with the radiant at the zenith, directly overhead, with a dark sky and no Moon.
The state of the Moon at each peak is shown for the current year. When there is significant Moon in the sky, the number of meteors likely to be seen will be considerably reduced. Those showers with a green background colour are not likely to be affected by Moon-light in the current year, those with a grey background are likely to be more or less washed out by moon light.
Also shown is the right ascension and declination of the radiant, and a nearby bright star. This latter may help give a quick idea of where the radiant is.
The contents of this page are based on information from the International Meteor Organisation. Further details on meteor observing can be obtained from their web pages which should be consulted by anyone interested in making observations of meteors.
|Active||Peak||2012||/ hour||RA||Dec||Near star|
|Centaurids||Jan 28-Feb 21||Feb 8||1 day after full||5 (-25)||14.1hr||-59°||β & α Cen|
|gamma-Normids||Feb 25-Mar 22||Mar 13||2 days before last qtr||8||16.6hr||-51°||γ Nor|
|pi-Puppids||Apr 15-Apr 28||Apr 23||2 days after new||var to 40||7.3hr||-45°||σ Pup|
|eta-Aquarids||Apr 19-May 28||May 5||1 days before full||60||22.5hr||-1°||η Aqr|
|Pisces Austrinids||Jul 15-Aug 10||Jul 27||1 day after first qtr||5||22.7hr||-30°||α PsA|
|alpha-Capricornids||Jul 3-Aug 15||Jul 30||3 days before full||4||20.5hr||-10°||α Cap|
|Southern delta-Aquarids||Jul 12-Aug 19||Jul 27||1 day after first quarter||20||22.6hr||-16°||δ Aqr|
|Southern iota-Aquarids||Jul 25-Aug 15||Aug 4||2 days after full||2||22.3hr||-15°||ι Aqr|
|Northern delta-Aquarids||Jul 15-Aug 25||Aug 13||4 days after last quarter||4||22.3hr||-5°||θ Aqr|
|Northern iota-Aquarids||Aug 11-Aug 31||Aug 19||2 days after new||3||21.8hr||-6°||β Aqr|
|Piscids||Sep 1-Sep 30||Sep 19||3 days after new||3||00.3hr||-1°||λ Psc|
|Orionids||Oct 2-Nov 7||Oct 21||1 day before 1st quarter||20||06.3hr||+16°||γ Gem|
|Leonids||Nov 14-Nov 21||Nov 17||3 days before first qtr||100+||10.2hr||+22°||γ Leo|
|alpha-Monocerotids||Nov 15-Nov 25||Nov 21||1 days after first qtr||5 var||7.9hr||+1°||δ Mon|
|Phoenicids||Nov 28-Dec 9||Dec 6||last qtr||var||1.2hr||-53°||Achernar|
|Geminids||Dec 7-Dec 17||Dec 14||1 day after new||120||7.3hr||+33°||Castor|
Viewing is best after local midnight when the Pointers, and the radiant, gain a reasonable altitude. But the radiant is visible all night in NZ.
A relatively broad maximum, sometimes with a variable number of submaxima, usually occurs in early May. The zenith hourly rates are generally above 30 for almost a week centered on the main peak. High rates are expected between 2008 and 2012. The radiant rises at about 2 am in New Zealand, so observation is best from about 5 am by which time the radiant has a reasonable altitude. The radiant culminates at about 08h local time.
Such a concentration of radiants in a small area of sky means that familiarity with where all the radiants are is essential for accurate shower association for all observing nights. Visual watchers in particular should plot all potential stream members seen in this region of sky rather than trying to make shower associations in the field. The only exception is when the Southern delta-Aquarids are near their peak, because rates may become too high for accurate plotting particularly from southern hemisphere sites, .
For mid southern hemisphere latitudes the radiant does not reach a reasonable altitude for observation until about 2 hours before sunrise, despite rising about local midnight.
A weak shower, the epsilon Geminids, is nearly coincident with the Orionids and has a peak October 18.
More on observing the Orionids
More on observing the Leonids
More on observing the Geminids
RASNZ Home Page
As reported by Stephen J O'Meara in the September 2002 issue of Sky and Telescope, a new meteor shower may have been spotted in Taurus. Observations made by Stephen in September 2001, and by French astronomers in 1996 give some indication to this.
This 'shower' is believed to peak around 14-15 September. The radiant point is between the Hyades and the Pleiades in the constellation Taurus, near a 4.3 magnitude star.
The radiant is rather low for NZ observers, but nevertheless it will be worth watching to see if any meteors radiate from that point. I suggest watching from about 4 am on both September 14 and September 15 until dawn gets too advanced. Don't expect to see huge numbers - more likely just a few per hour, if any. This is not a confirmed radiant, so we are simply interested to see if there is any activity.
If recording observations, please note the start and end time of observing run, weather conditions and limiting magnitude (brightness of faintest stars visible). Count the number of meteors you can trace to come from the radiant point in Taurus. If they radiate from anywhere else, don't count them as a shower meteor.
Please send any observations to Dennis Goodman, P O Box 2214, Christchurch who will then on-send them to Stephen O'Meara and the American Meteor Society. Or you can send observations by email to Dennis Goodman.
The chart shows the sky near the possible radiant in Taurus. At 4.30 am the Pleiades will be close to due north form New Zealand with an altitude about 20° from the south of the South Island increasing to about 30° from the north of the North Island. The view is a southern hemisphere view. Stars to magnitude 5.5 are shown. Chart produced by GUIDE 8.0.