A possible return of the Phoenicid meteor shower in 2019 had been predicted by Jenniskens and Lyytinen (2005) and took place past few nights and may still be going on.
Network operators, check your cameras!
The Phoenicids were for a long time a poorly known meteor shower, seen on 5 December 1956, observed by many observers in Australia and South Africa (Ridley, 1963) as well as by a team on the first Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition in the Indian Ocean (Huruhata and Nakamura, 1957).
The event was also registered by radio observations at Adelaide, Australia. The radio rate of 30/hr measured on an equipment of high sensitivity is much lower than expected from the visual rates of from 20 to 100/hr reported from 1 to 9 hour later (Weiss, 1958).
With the 1956 data available, the shower got listed in the working list of meteor streams established by Allan Cook (Cook, 1973) and remained for long the only information available.
Table 1 – The December Phoenicids (PHO#254) from literature (Cook, 1973).
|Cook (1973)||Comet 1819 IV
|a||2.96 A.U.||2.96 A.U.|
|q||0.99 A.U.||0.892 A.U.|
2 Discovery of extinct comet nucleus 2003 WY25
The minor planet 2003 WY25 was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey as a very faint object with a diameter of only 400 m in diameter. The orbit was very similar to the orbit of the lost comet D/1819 W1 (Blanpain). This new information allowed researchers to integrate back in time and the better determined orbit of 2003 WY25 proved to fit very well with poorly determined orbit of Blanpain in 1819.
Jenniskens and Lyytinen (2005) could predict a return of the shower in the fall of 2005, but conditions were much less favorable than in 1956. Also, for the years 2019, 2034, 2039, and 2044, enhanced Phoenicids activity was predicted, all at much lower rates than in1956.
The Phoenicids were also optically observed from North Carolina, USA, using video and digital cameras in the night from 2014 December 1, at 22h30m UT until December 2, 4h00m UT. The activity of the Phoenicids was confirmed as well as the predicted maximum December 2, at 0h UT. The activity was rather modest with only 29 Phoenicids recorded. The compact radiant of the Phoenicids agreed well with what was predicted and this was significant more to the north compared to the radiant observed in 1956, R.A. ~6° to 15° and decl. ~–16° (Fujiwara et al., 2017).
3 Phoenicids 2019 return ongoing
Peter Jenniskens reports that based on 18 Phoenicids detected by the CAMS Chile network on 2019 November 12 to 14, we can conclude the Phoenicids did return now in 2019. The outburst was also detected by most other CAMS networks (Jenniskens, 2019).
Table 2 – The December Phoenicids (PHO#254) from the 2019 return, preliminary results, and current comet orbit (J2000) (Jenniskens, 2019).
|Comet 1819 IV
|λʘ||229.1 to 231.6°||–|
|αg||7.3 ± 0.4°||–|
|δg||–6.9 ± 0.4°||–|
|vg||11.8 ± 0.5 km/s||–|
|q||0.935 ± 0.002 A.U.||0.959 A.U.|
|e||0.75 ± 0.04||0.685|
|ω||28.6 ± 0.4°||9.84 °|
|Ω||50.7 ± 0.2°||68.92 °|
|i||2.89 ± 0.16°||5.90°|
On the Global Meteor Activity website you can find all the radiants obtained for multiple station meteors that allowed to compute an orbit. Go to http://cams.seti.org/FDL/, pick a date (use Chrome as browser, not IE) and you can see the shower activity on November 12, 13, 14 and 15 so far. The Phoenicid shower is the white blob right of the antihelion source, just below the ecliptic plane.
Although the weather is very uncooperative, the CAMS BeNeLux network so far had so far two Phoenicid orbits (courtesy Carl Johannink):
- On November 13, at 20h32m25s UT, between camera 389-Mechelen, Belgium (Adriana and Paul Roggemans) and camera 3032-Oostkapelle, the Netherlands (Klaas Jobse) (Figure 2).
- On November 12 at 01h16m01s UT, between camera 396-Gent, Belgium (Tim Polfliet) and camera 3830-Mechelen, Belgium (Adriana and Paul Roggemans) (Figure 3).
- On November 15, at 23h14m52s UT, between camera 814-Grapfontaine, Belgium (Jean-Paul Dumoulin and Christian Wanlin) and camera 807-Mechelen, Belgium (Luc Gobin).
- On November 15, at 23h17m55s UT, between camera 393-Uccle, Belgium (Hervé Lamy) and camera 3037-Oostkapelle, the Netherlands (Klaas Jobse).
The details for the Phoenicid orbits obtained by CAMS BeNeLux are listed in Table 3.
Table 3 – The Phoenicid orbits obtained by CAMS BeNeLux in 2019 (J2000) (courtesy Carl Johannink).
|αg||6.59 ± 0.03°||6.75 ± 0.03°||6.64 ± 0.09°||6.64 ± 0.31°|
|δg||–5.97 ± 0.03°||–7.03 ± 0.14°||–7.84 ± 0.26°||–8.12 ± 0.86°|
|vg||10.443 ± 0.003 km/s||10.619 ± 0.011 km/s||10.524 ± 0.033 km/s||10.344 ± 0.087 km/s|
|Hb||89.4 ± 0.00 km||89.3 ± 0.02 km||87.3 ± 0.01 km||87.54 ± 0.03 km|
|He||76.8 ± 0.01km||73.7 ± 0.01km||73.99 ± 0.01km||78.91 ± 0.05km|
|a||2.687 A.U.||2.915 A.U.||3.025 A.U.||2.91 A.U.|
|q||0.93938 ± 0.00006 A.U.||0.94343 ± 0.00018 A.U.||0.94899 ± 0.0002 A.U.||0.94977 ± 0.00059 A.U.|
|e||0.6504 ± 0.0003||0.6763 ± 0.0008||0.6863 ± 0.0022||0.6736 ± 0.0057|
|ω||29.484 ± 0.019°||27.805 ± 0.055°||25.774 ± 0.048°||25.663 ± 0.148°|
|Ω||49.0988 ± 0.0002°||50.8983 ± 0.0004°||53.0379 ± 0.0014°||53.0396 ± 0.0048°|
|i||2.248 ± 0.009°||2.549 ± 0.036°||2.7 ± 0.074°||2.731 ± 0.241°|
Most striking is the very low ablation height of these Phoenicid meteors, around 80 km. Although the CAMS BeNeLux network is optimized to cover the atmospheric layer between 80 and 120 km, the variable weather and some technical problems mean that not all CAMS stations can capture meteors simultaneously. This reduces mainly the chances to register those meteors deep in the atmosphere from multiple stations which is in particular unfavorable for slow meteors such as Phoenicids which go deep into the atmosphere before a luminous trail becomes visible.
Cook A.F. (1973). “A working list of meteor streams”. In Curtis L. Hemenway, Peter M. Millman, and Allan F. Cook, editors. Evolutionary and Physical Properties of Meteoroids, Proceedings of IAU Colloq. 13, held in Albany, NY, 14-17 June 1971. National Aeronautics and Space Administration SP 319, 1973., pages 183–191.
Fujiwara Yasunori, Nakamura Takuji, Uehara Satoshi, Sagayama Toru, Toda Hiroyuki, the NHK Cosmic Front TV Crew (2017). “Optical observations of the Phoenicid meteor shower in 2014 and activity of comet 289P/Blanpain in the early 20th century”. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan, 69, 60-1–60-9.
Huruhata M. and Nakamura J. (1957). Tokyo Astron. Bull., 2nd Ser., No. 99.
Jenniskens P. and Lyytinen E. (2005). “Meteor showers from the debris of broken comets: D/1819 W1 (Blanpain), 2003 WY25, and the Phoenicids”. The Astronomical Journal, 130, 1286–1290.
Jenniskens P. (2019). “PHOENICID METEORS 2019″.CBET 4698 : 20191115.
Ridley H. B. (1963). “The Phoenicid Meteor Shower of 1956 December 5”. Monthly Notes of the Astron. Soc. Southern Africa, 22, 42–49.
Weiss A. A. (1958). “The 1956 Phoenicid Meteor Shower”. Australian Journal of Physics, 11, 113–117.