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Meteor Showers 2017

By Tony Markham

Contents

Introduction

Finding out which meteor showers are active each month can be a challenge. Some published lists haven't been updated for over 20 years and don't take into account more recent and more accurate video observations. Some more recent lists go too far and extend the activity dates of meteor showers to those detectable using video methods but well beyond those during which the meteor shower will be evident visually.

The list is largely based on the 2014 revision of the International Meteor Organization's (IMO's) Working List of Visual Meteor Showers, which itself is based on "A Comprehensive List of Meteor Showers Obtained from 10 Years of Observations with the IMO Video Meteor Network” by Sirko Molau and Jurgen Rendtel.  Amendments continue to be made using reliable data to ensure the information remains as fully up-to-date as possible, since as we have discovered in the last two decades, meteor showers are not fixed things, but are constantly changing, some faster than others. The details presented here take into account the latest updates presented in the 2017 IMO Meteor Shower Calendar

SPA observers are encouraged to cover these showers because they are known to be genuinely active at the present time, and they produce visually-detectable rates.

Diurnal and Seasonal Variations

In addition to the variations in meteor rates due to major meteor showers listed later, there are also general daily and seasonal trends in meteor rates. In the same way as the front of your coat gets wetter than the back as you walk through the rain, so the side of the Earth facing the direction the Earth is heading its orbit encounters more meteors than the backward looking side. In practice this means that the background sporadic meteor rates are lowest at around 6pm each day and then steadily rise through the night towards their peak at around 6am. The seasonal variation occurs because the direction in which the Earth is moving lies on the ecliptic 90 degrees behind the location of the Sun. Around the spring equinox, this is in Sagittarius and so never gets very high in the sky from the UK and so sporadic meteor rates are low. By the autumn equinox, this has moved to the Taurus/Gemini area, is therefore much higher in the sky, and hence we see higher sporadic meteor rates.

Visual Meteor Showers List

The activity dates given for the major showers in the table below are those between which the shower is likely to be apparent to a naked eye observer. Outlying members of the meteor stream can be detected beyond these dates via imaging techniques.

Shower name IMO shower
code
Activity
Period
Maximum ZHR at
max.
Radiant
position at maximum
   RA    Dec
Radiant
Daily motion
RA Dec
Speed
(km/s)
 
Quadrantids QUA Jan 1-6 Jan 3d 14h 80-120 15h20m +49° +2.4m -0.2° 41 km/s
Lyrids  LYR Apr 18-25 Apr 22d 11h 18 18h04m +34° +4.4m 0.0° 49 km/s
η Aquarids  ETA Apr 19-May 28 May 5-6 70 22h32m -01° +3.5m +0.4° 66 km/s
June Boötids  JBO Jun 22-Jul 2 Jun 27? 0-100+ 14h56m +48° +1.6m -0.2° 18 km/s
δ Aquarids SDA Jul 15-Aug 20 Jul 29 20 22h36m -16° +3.0m +0.2° 40 km/s
α Capricornids CAP Jul 15-Aug 15 Aug 1-2 5 20h28m -10° +3.2m +0.3° 23 km/s
Perseids PER Jul 17-Aug 24 Aug 12d 19h 60-100 03h16m +58° +5.6m +0.2° 59 km/s
κ Cygnids KCG Aug 3-25 Aug 18? 3 19h04m +59° +1.0m +0.1° 25 km/s
α Aurigids AUR Aug 25-Sep 10 Aug 31 6 06h04m +39° +4.3m -0.1° 66 km/s
September ε Perseids SPE Sep 5-21 Sep 9 5 03h12m +48° +4.3m +0.1° 64 km/s
Oct Camelopardalids OCT Oct 5-6 Oct 5d 18-22h? var. 11h00m +78° - - 47 km/s
Draconids DRA Oct 7-10 Oct 8-9 var. 17h28m +54° - - 20 km/s
ε Geminids EGE Oct 14-27 Oct 18 3 06h50m +27° +4.0m +0.0° 70 km/s
Orionids ORI Oct 14-31 Oct 21-23 25 06h20m +16° +2.6m +0.1° 66 km/s
Southern Taurids STA mid Sep - late Nov see notes 5 see chart   +2.9m +0.2° 21 km/s
Northern Taurids NTA mid Oct - early Dec see notes 5 see chart   +3.6m +0.2° 29 km/s
Leonids LEO Nov 10-24 Nov 17-18 15 10h08m +22° +2.4m -0.3° 71 km/s
Dec Alpha Draconids DAD Dec 4-13 Dec 7-8 1 13h00m +60° - - 41 km/s
Monocerotids MON Dec 5-20 Dec 8 2 06h40m +8° +2.5m -0.2° 41 km/s
Sigma Hydrids HYD Dec 3-15 Dec 11 3 08h30m +2° +3.2m -0.2° 58 km/s
Geminids GEM Dec 7-16 Dec 14d 06h 110 07h28m +33° +4.0m -0.1° 35 km/s
December Leo Minorids DLM Dec 5-Feb 4 Dec 20 5 10h44m +30° +3.5m -0.4° 64 km/s
Coma Berenicids COM Dec 12-23 Dec 16 3 11h40m +18° +2.4m -0.3° 65 km/s
Ursids URS Dec 17-25 Dec 22-23 10 14h28m +76° +0.0m -0.4° 33 km/s

 

Shower Notes

Follow the links below for additional information about the main meteor showers and radiant location charts:

 

Quadrantids

Lyrids

Eta Aquarids

Delta Aquarids and Alpha Capricornids

Perseids

Alpha Aurigids and September Perseids
 
October Camelopardalids and Draconids
 
Orionids
 
Taurids
 
Leonids
 
Geminids
 
Ursids
 
 

Other Meteor Showers of Note

June Boötids: An unpredictable source, the June Boötids produced an unexpected outburst in 1998, when ZHRs of 50-100+ were observed for over 12 hours, with rates seen on just one date. Before this, only three returns of the shower were known, from 1916, 1921 and 1927. Another ZHR ~50 outburst happened on 2004 June 23, but a similar event predicted for 2010 June 23/24 proved disappointingly very weak (ZHRs < 10; see ENBs 291292 & 295 ). The shower is associated with Comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke. This will pass through perihelion on 2015 January 30. However, although enhanced activity from other meteor showers has been most likely to occur wheh their parent comet is near perihelion, there seems to have been no such correlation regarding previous outbursts of the June Bootids. Moonlight will not be an issue - New Moon in 2017 is on June 24. A more significant issue will of course be Britain's short, twilit midsummer nights - although even casual observers here easily spotted the 1998 return. No activity is expected this year, though recent IMO video results have indicated very weak rates may happen annually from the shower, on or around June 24, so worth keeping watch then just in case, and also around the 1998 peak's repeat time, on June 27. The June 24 video June Boötids were radiating from an area about 10° south of the expected one, however. June Bootids are typically very slow meteors.
 
κ Cygnids: Although some kappa Cygnid activity will be seen by observers in the lead up to Perseid maximum, the peak of the shower occurs in mid August. Rates are generally low and meteors are slow, but occasional bright fireballs (possibly in periodic bursts every 6 to 7 years) have been seen from this source. Recent IMO video results have indicated the maximum may be nearer Aug 14 (rather than Aug 20) and also found problems in defining the radiant position. Interestingly, the shower shows up rather strongly in the radar monitoring of the CMOR system , indicating that there is also a significant contribution from small particles that are too faint to be readily seen with the naked eye. New Moon in 2017 is on Aug 21. Hence moonlight will not be a problem for the peak of the 2017 Kappa Cygnids.
 
Draconids (Giacobinids): Past showers have typically happened only when their parent comet, 21P/Giacobini-Zinner (period around 6.6 years), was at perihelion in the autumn, as in 1998, when short-lived ZHRs of circa 700 occurred. Other returns have given rates up to storm levels (the last storm was in 1946). A largely unexpected outburst happened in 2005 (when the comet returned that July; see ENBs 184 & 185) , so it is worth checking on in most years, just in case. Another brief outburst, reaching a ZHR of 250-300 occurred on 2011 Oct 8. The comet passed through perihelion in early 2012 and so high rates were not expected in 2012. However, there were reports of a significant outburst was detected by radar, and possibly also visually, between 16h and 17h UT on Oct 8. These reports should be taken with care however as high radar rates do not always translate into high visual rates and the visual reports were based on observations made in poor sky conditions. No significant Draconid activity was reported in 2013-2016. With Full Moon having occurred on 2017 Oct 5, moonlight will be a significant problem for observers in 2017.
 
December Leo Minorids & Coma Berenicids: The minor Coma Berenicid shower underwent a degree of confusion in recent times, after IMO video results found apparently identically very swift, mostly faint, meteors radiating from an area about 15° west of where previous visual observations had suggested it should be, as well as from the anticipated radiant. It now seems there may be two minor showers active here, of which the December Leo Minorids is marginally the stronger, and apparently the longer-lasting. Initially thought that both peaked around December 20, the Coma shower is now believed to reach its weak maximum a few days sooner (and from a somewhat different position than earlier indicated). It may be that visual observers will struggle to identify the sources as separate, given previous apparent difficulties in this respect. With these shower only being readily observable late in the night, moonlight will not be too much of a problem. The December Leo Minorid radiant is usefully-observable after 22:30 UT, while the Coma Berenicid radiant area is so-placed only after 01h.
 
December Alpha Draconids:  This minor shower was first detected by Japanese observers. Some sources also list a second activity period of Dec 26-Jan 3, but this may well be spurious and due to contamination from mis-identified Quadrantid meteors, whose speeds are similar and whose radiant is close by.
 

Antihelion Source (ANT) Radiant Centre Locations

The use of the "Antihelion Source" relates to the problem of distinguishing between a large number of minor shower radiants that are active around the anti-solar position on the ecliptic throughout the year. With the radiants involved often being close together, it has been virtually impossible for visual observers to reliably assign a given meteor to the correct minor shower. Hence, rather than maintain an unreliable list of minor showers along the ecliptic, the solution has been to assign all such meteors to this "antihelion source". The only exceptions to this have been those showers that are strong enough tio clearly stand out above the background levels, these being the Delta Aquarids and Alpha Capricornids in the summer and the Taurids in the autumn.

Source is active all year except during STA & NTA; Better ZHRs (3-4) likely in March-April, early & late May & June, and early July; Radiant area is about 30° in RA by 15° in Dec.

Date RA Dec
January 1 07h32m +21°
January 15 08h28m +17°
February 1 09h40m +12°
February 15 10h36m +07°
March 1 11h32m +02°
March 15 12h28m -04°
April 1 13h36m -10°
April 15 14h32m -15°
May 1 15h32m -19°
May 15 16h28m -22°
June 1 17h35m -23°
June 15 18h24m -23°
July 1 19h28m -21°
July 15 20h20m -18°
August 1 21h24m -13°
August 15 22h20m -08°
September 1 23h24m -02°
September 15 STA only
October 1 STA only
October 15 NTA & STA 
November 1 NTA & STA 
November 15 NTA & STA 
December 1 NTA only
December 15 06h24m +23°