It's a new era for meteor-shower science. In the September 2012 Sky & Telescope, meteor expert Peter Jenniskens tells how automated video cameras watching the sky all night, combined with sophisticated automatic image analysis, are enabling astronomers to monitor meteor showers and map meteoroid streams through the solar system better than ever before.

Meteor showers active December 1 - 8 (partial map)

Part of Peter Jenniskens' map of active meteor radiants for December 1–8. See text at left for details. Orion and Canis Major, compressed sideways, are the white dots at lower right.

Peter Jenniskens

In the article, Jenniskens presents six sky maps showing active shower radiants during various times from late August to early January.

Here is his full set of 15 maps all around the year, with details about each (Word .doc file).

On the maps, (a section of one is at right), each colored dot is the calculated radiant of a single meteor, as determined from its 3-D path through Earth's upper atmosphere. A cluster of same-colored dots represents a meteor shower; some are labeled with their 3-letter IAU designation.

Violet, blue, and green indicate slow meteors (those arriving at 11 to 45 km per second, respectively). Most of these meteors are catching up to Earth from behind as Earth moves along its orbit, with radiants in the evening sky. Most of these come from Jupiter-family comets. Yellow, orange, and red dots mark fast meteors (up to 72 km per second) approaching Earth head-on in its orbit. Often their speed is augmented by their origins from Oort-cloud comets on long orbits.

Constellations (white star dots) are stretched sideways near the top of each map and greatly compressed sideways in the middle. Each map runs from right ascention 0h (right edge) to 24h (left edge). The dashed line is the ecliptic.

Also: the CAMS website.

More on how to set up your own camera to join the project.


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