Greetings again all,
It truly amazes me how fast a normal, mundane meteor watch can turn into a memory for a lifetime, but it sure did for a very lucky yours truly last night/this morning from the glittering skies of trusty Matanzas Inlet (MI)! I was there to check out an obscure and little known minor shower called the Alpha Monocerotids (AMO). I didn’t see even one AMO in the two hours I was out there, but what I did see kept me far, far away from the Complaint Department…;o).
I got there a bit before 11:00 p.m. to take advantage of the final two hours of dark skies before the waning crescent moon rose a bit before 1:00 a.m. I had been there about 20 minutes when at 11:18 p.m. EST, suddenly all of MI was lit up by a flash of intense orange light! I caught the source of the flash out of the corner of my eye and turned my head just in time to see the terminal burst of a stunning North Taurid (NTA) fireball fall into the southwest horizon in a shower of sparks! I estimate it was at least -8 in magnitude, perhaps even brighter! The initial flash was the brightest and it was slightly brighter than the terminal burst, but both flashes were magnificent and deep tangerine orange in color.
The awesome 360 degree, wide horizons at MI helped me greatly in seeing this beauty. The entire fireball played out less than ten degrees above the southwest horizon and was visible for maybe two seconds max. Virtually anywhere without almost perfect horizons would not have allowed this gem to have been seen directly. One might have caught the flash only, but the meteor itself would most likely have been hidden behind trees, buildings, etc. It reminded me of our recent Perseid group watch when we all saw the flashes of a Perseid fireball, but not the meteor itself. This time, I was lucky and the meteor hit just above my horizon. Beyond this stunner, I did catch a few other nice NTAs, here’s my overall results:
Observed for radiants:
NTA: North Taurids
NOO: November Orionids
AMO: Alpha Monocerotids
Date: Nov. 21/22, 2016, Observer: Paul Jones, Location: North Bank of Matanzas Inlet, Florida (about 15 miles south of St. Augustine, Florida), Lat: 29.75 N, Long: 81.24 W, LM: 6.8, Clear, Facing SE.
1100 – 1200 p.m. EST (0400 – 0500 UT), Teff: 1.0 hour, no breaks
2 NTA: -8, +1
1 NOO: +2
8 SPO: +2(3), +3(3), +4, +5
11 total meteors
The -8 NTA fireball left a short train and had an intense orange color in both of its two bright flashes.
1200 -1:00 a.m. EST (0500 – 0600 UT), Teff: 1.0 hour, no breaks
5 NTA: -1, 0, +2, +3, +4
1 NOO: +2
9 SPO: +1, +2, +3(2), +4(4), +5
15 total meteors
The two brightest NTAs both left short trains and were bluish white in color.
Needless to say, the NTAs completely stole the show this morning! They had a good showing even above and beyond the stunning fireball. The November Orionids (NOO) are another minor shower of interest I plan to be out for in the nights ahead. They reach maximum on Nov., 28th near New Moon. The NOOs are medium in speed and look just like Geminid meteors which will also be kicking in here in a couple of weeks! This is an awesome time for meteor watching to be sure.
I had no gnats or mosquitoes bother me at all during this watch, just the gentle sounds of the waters of the inlet lapping at the bank and the waves breaking on the beach. I have a feeling that the NTAs might have another jewel or two like the one last night up their sleeve in the nights ahead. Would anyone like to join me out there? Company is quite welcomed…;o).
Clear skies and happy Thanksgiving all, Paul
P. S. – This two hour watch officially put me over 100 hours of meteor observing for 2016 – 101 to be exact! My total number of meteors seen during that time has surpassed 3,100! It has been an incredible meteor observing year to be sure.