October 19, 2017

7.9.09: The September Perseids…an Encore?

   This weeks’ potential astro-event is a total wild card. Last year, automated all-sky cameras and the few dedicated observers that maintained a lone early AM vigil noted a sharp upswing in a previously unknown meteor shower. Informally dubbed the “September Perseids,” this shower appeared to have a brief peak over North America on September 9th and spawned a flurry several bright fireballs over a span of about four hours. The progenitor comet remains a mystery, as does much about this shower…could a new meteor stream be evolving? The only way to know for sure is to watch! The morning of Wednesday the 9th of September may be optimal, although a morning before or after may produce results. The bad news this year is that the Moon will be placed for maximal interference; a 74% waning gibbous Moon rises at about 10:30 PM local. Still, fireballs as seen in 2008 may be worth the early AM rise. Do not confuse the September Perseids with the nearby Aurigids which peaked at the beginning of the month, or the more well known August Perseids, which may still be active. The September Perseids seem to hail from a radiant very near the star Beta Perseii at around R.A. 3 hours, 12 minutes and a declination of +40, while the traditional Perseids originate from the Perseus-Cassiopeia border… in any event, I urge you to take a look; we need more data on this shower, and those early risers might just see something special!

The astro-term for this week is apex sporadics. This breed of sporadic meteor orbits the Sun in a retrograde pattern, and hence encounters the Earth in a swift, head-on motion. The apex radiant rises after local midnight, and rides highest at dawn. Twin radiants ride to about 90 degrees west of the Sun about 15 degrees above and below the ecliptic. Various rates for sporadic meteors are given as 3-5 per hour, throughout the year.


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