Calendar of southern meteor showers Brief notes about the showers A possible new meteor shower for mid September.
Normally a small number of "sporadic" meteors can be seen each hour of a moonless night. During a shower the number visible may increase considerably with the meteors appearing to originate from a small area of the sky, called the radiant. This is a perspective effect due to the meteors travelling in parallel lines but as they approach the observer they appear to spread out. The shower is named after the constellation in which the radiant lies.
The list of meteor showers shows some showers 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. Also shown is the right ascension and declination of the radiant, and a nearby bright star.
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||2009||/ hour||RA||Dec||Near star|
|alpha-Centaurids||Jan 28-Feb 21||Feb 8||1 day before full||5 (-25)||14.1hr||-59°||β & α Cen|
|gamma-Normids||Feb 25-Mar 22||Mar 13||2 days after full||8||16.6hr||-51°||γ Nor|
|Virginids||Jan 25-Apr 15||Mar 24||2 days before new||5||13.0hr||-4°||θ Vir|
|pi-Puppids||Apr 15-Apr 28||Apr 23||2 days before new||var to 40||7.3hr||-45°||σ Pup|
|eta-Aquarids||Apr 19-May 28||May 5||4 days before full||60||22.5hr||-1°||η Aqr|
|Sagittarids||Apr 15-Jul 15||May 19||2 days after last qtr||5||18.3hr||-22°||μ Sgr|
|June Bootids||Jun 23-Jul 2||Jun 27||2 days before 1st qtr||var||14.9hr||+48°||β Boo|
|Pisces Austrinids||Jul 15-Aug 10||Jul 27||1 day before 1st qtr||5||22.7hr||-30°||α PsA|
|alpha-Capricornids||Jul 3-Aug 15||Jul 30||2 days after 1st qtr||4||20.5hr||-10°||α Cap|
|Southern delta-Aquarids||Jul 12-Aug 19||Jul 27||1 day before 1st qtr||20||22.6hr||-16°||δ Aqr|
|Southern iota-Aquarids||Jul 25-Aug 15||Aug 4||2 days before full||2||22.3hr||-15°||ι Aqr|
|Northern iota-Aquarids||Aug 11-Aug 31||Aug 19||1 day before full||3||21.8hr||-6°||β Aqr|
|Piscids||Sep 1-Sep 30||Sep 19||1 day after full||3||00.3hr||-1°||λ Psc|
|Orionids||Oct 2-Nov 7||Oct 21||3 days after new||20||06.3hr||+16°||γ Gem|
|Leonids||Nov 14-Nov 21||Nov 17||1 day after new||100+||10.2hr||+22°||γ Leo|
|alpha-Monocerotids||Nov 15-Nov 25||Nov 21||3 days before 1st qtr||5 var||7.1hr||+1°||δ Mon|
|Phoenicids||Nov 28-Dec 9||Dec 6||4 days after full||var||1.2hr||-53°||Achernar|
|Geminids||Dec 7-Dec 17||Dec 14||2 days before full||120||7.3hr||+33°||Castor|
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 2010. 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.
The shower's parent comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke which was at perihelion in 1996 prior to the 1998 apparition. It was again at perihelion in may 2002 and again in June 2008, so June 2009 will be worth watching. The comet's orbit currently lies around 0.24 astronomical units outside the Earth's orbit at its closest approach, so we have no way at present to predict likely future activity. The radiant is below the northern horizon for the South Island of New Zealand, and very low in the North.
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, as from southern hemisphere sites in particular, rates may become too high for accurate plotting.
A weak shower, the epsilon Geminids, is nearly coincident with the Orionids and have 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.