During this period the moon reaches its last quarter phase on Wednesday April 19th. At this time the half illuminated moon is located 90 degrees west of the sun and rises near 0200 local summer time (LST) as seen from mid-northern latitudes. This weekend the waning gibbous moon will interfere with meteor observations as the bright moonlight will obscure all but the brighter meteors. As the week progresses the conditions improve with each passing night as the moon’s phase wanes and it rises approximately 45 minutes later with each passing night. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 3 for those viewing from the northern hemisphere and 4 for those located south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 7 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 11 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S). Morning rates are reduced during this period due to lunar interference. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Note that the hourly rates listed below are estimates as viewed from dark sky sites away from urban light sources. Observers viewing from urban areas will see less activity as only the brightest meteors will be visible from such locations.
The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning April 15/16. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period. Most star atlases (available at science stores and planetariums) will provide maps with grid lines of the celestial coordinates so that you may find out exactly where these positions are located in the sky. A planisphere or computer planetarium program is also useful in showing the sky at any time of night on any date of the year. Activity from each radiant is best seen when it is positioned highest in the sky, either due north or south along the meridian, depending on your latitude. It must be remembered that meteor activity is rarely seen at the radiant position. Rather they shoot outwards from the radiant so it is best to center your field of view so that the radiant lies at the edge and not the center. Viewing there will allow you to easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant (if it is a shower member) or in another direction if it is a sporadic. Meteor activity is not seen from radiants that are located below the horizon. The positions below are listed in a west to east manner in order of right ascension (celestial longitude). The positions listed first are located further west therefore are accessible earlier in the night while those listed further down the list rise later in the night.
These sources of meteoric activity are expected to be active this week.
The pi Puppids (PPU) are active from April 15-28 which maximum activity predicted to occur on the 23rd. Some of these meteors may be seen from the southern hemisphere from a radiant located at 07:08 (107) -44. This area of the sky is located central Puppis, 4 degrees west of the 3rd magnitude star Sigma Puppis. This area of the sky is best seen as soon as it becomes dark during the early evening hours. No matter your location, rates are expected to be low. Observers located in the tropical northern hemisphere may also see some activity but at latitudes north of 30 degrees north, the odds are against seeing any activity at all. At 18km/sec. the Pi Puppids would produce meteors of very slow velocity.
The sigma Leonids (SLE) were first documented by Cuno Hoffmeister back in the 1940’s. Recent analysis show these meteors are active from April 8-25 with maximum activity occurring on the 15th. The radiant is currently located at 13:28 (202) +03. This area of the sky is actually located in central Virgo, 4 degrees northwest of the 3rd magnitude star known as Heze (zeta Virginis). I’m not certain why this source is called the Sigma Leonids as even Hoffmeister placed the radiant in central Virgo, far from the star known as sigma Leonis. Perhaps back then there was a source of activity thought to be in southeastern Leo active at the same time? This radiant is best placed near 0100 LST when it lies highest above the horizon. Rates are probably near 1 per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 19 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of slow velocity.
The center of the large Anthelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 14:36 (219) -15. This position lies in western Libra, 5 degrees west of the 3rd magnitude star known as Zubenelgenubi (alpha Librae). Due to the large size of this radiant, Anthelion activity may also appear from eastern Hydra and eastern Virgo as well as Libra. This radiant is best placed near 0200 LST, when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near 2 per hour as seen from mid-northern latitudes and 3 per hour as seen from latitude 25 S. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Anthelion meteor would be of slow velocity.
Lyrid (LYR) meteors should begin appearing on April 18th and will reach maximum activity 4 nights later. The radiant is currently located at 17:56 (269) +36. This area of the sky is actually located in eastern Hercules, 3 degrees south of the 4th magnitude star known as Rukbalgethi Genubi (theta Herculis). This radiant is best placed during the last hour before dawn when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Rates at maximum are normally 10-15 per hour but this week they will only produce 1-2 per hour and less as seen from the southern hemisphere. With an entry velocity of 46 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of medium-fast velocity.
The April rho Cygnids (AEC) were discovered by Dr. Peter Brown during his meteoroid stream survey using the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar. These meteors are active from April 11-May 4 with maximum activity occurring on the 22nd. The radiant is currently located at 21:10 (318) +42. This area of the sky is located in eastern Cygnus some 6 degrees southeast of the 1st magnitude star known as Deneb (alpha Cygni). This radiant is best placed during the last hour before dawn when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Current rates are expected to be less than 1 per houir no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 42 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of medium velocity. Note that these meteors are synonymous with the Nu Cygnids (Molau and Rendtel, 2009).
As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately 4 sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near 2 per hour. As seen from the tropical southern latitudes (25S), morning rates would be near 7 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and 3 per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Morning rates are reduced during this period due to moonlight.
The list below offers the information from above in a tabular form. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning except where noted in the shower descriptions.
|DATE OF MAXIMUM ACTIVITY
|RA (RA in Deg.) DEC
|Local Summer Time
|pi Puppids (PPU)
|07:08 (107) -44
|<1 – <1
|sigma Leonids (SLE)
|13:28 (202) +03
|1 – 1
|14:36 (219) -15
|2 – 3
|17:56 (269) +36
|<1 – <1
|April rho Cygnids (AEC)
|21:10 (318) +42
|<1 – <1