Meteor Outbursts

The Beta Cygnids were expected to return in 1997 but failed to appear.

There was a strong display from a radiant near 224 +50 over 1998 June 27/28 which may be associated with comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke, though the comet's orbit currently passes some distance from the earth.

According to a report from Seiichi Yoshida in Japan some Giacobinids were seen between 12 and 14 UT on 1998 October 8?, but rates were no higher than from a normal Perseid return.

The Leonids (55P/) produced very high rates on 1998 November 17/18, with many bright fireballs. I was en route to Antarctica and had a good view from the RAF Tristar on the way to Ascension Island. The shower peaked significantly earlier than expected. The shower put on a storm for the 1999 return when on 1999 November 18 at around 02:00 UT, around 40 - 50 meteors per minute were visible. This was well observed from the middle East. The 2000 return produced moderately high rates of a few hundred per hour. The 2001 return was a spectacular affair, with equivalent rates of around 3500 at maximum. BAA observers with Explorers tours in Palau saw peak ZHR of around 3600 about 17:50 UT on November 18, though peak observed rates were only 20 per minute. Another Leonid storm appeared in 2002, with peaks on November 19 at 04:00 and 10:36 UT, although moonlight hindered observations. Observing from St Maximin, Provence, France, with a zenith limiting magnitude of 5, I saw peaks in the equivalent hourly rates (taking 5 minute bins) at around 03:50 (around 340), 04:10 (450) and 04:24 (300), with the shower at more than half maximum from 03:45 to 04:28. Maximum observed rates were around 10 per minute. In 2006 I was lucky with clear skies from the UK, both for the decline from the normal maximum on the 18th and the predicted trail encounter on the 19th, although for the latter I travelled west to Wadenhoe in Northamptonshire. Here with a zenith limiting magnitude of 6 I saw an equivalent hourly rate of around 20 (using 20 minute bins) for 30 minutes either side of 05:05, somewhat higher than for the same time the previous night.

No significant activity was seen from the radiant attributed to comet 1999 J3, which might have been visible on 1999 November 11/12. The comet passed its descending node on 1999 October 2.92 (UT) at 1.003 AU from the Sun, 0.013 AU outside the Earth's orbit. The Earth itself crossed the orbital plane near this point on 1999 November 11.85 (UT), only 40 days behind the comet.

Possible meteors from 2000 WM1. The earth passed 0.013 AU from the orbit of 2000 WM1, 78 days after the comet on 2002 May 19.1 Any meteors would be moderately fast with a radiant at 2.44 hours RA, -29.6 degrees Dec. This is only some 30 degrees from the Sun, so observation would be difficult. None have been reported.

There is a possibility of activity from comet 1911 N1 (a comet in a near parabolic orbit, with period 2500 years) on 2007 September 1 at 11:37 according to research by Peter Jenniskens. If it occurs the shower would be the alpha Aurigids. An outburst did occur on September 1 between 10h30m and 12h00m UT, with a peak at 11h15m +/- 5 minutes (the predicted peak time was 11h33m +/- 20 min). The peak rate was within a factor of two of that expected. Most meteors were in the magnitude range -2 to +3, as anticipated.

Strong kappa Cygnid meteor activity was reported between 2007 August 10 and 19. The nature of the fireballs suggests a relatively recent cometary origin.

Updated 2007 September 11

Published by Jonathan Shanklin. Jon Shanklin -