Arkansas Meteor Showers

The table below lists the best annual meteor showers visible from Arkansas.   

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Discovery date1820s
Parent body2003 EH1
ConstellationBoötes
Occurs duringDecember 28-January 12
Date of peakJanuary 3
Velocity26 miles/sec
Zenithal hourly rate120 

General:
The Quadrantids have a relatively narrow peak of as little as four hours, (compared to two days for the August Perseids) which means the stream of particles that produces this shower is narrow, and apparently deriving within the last 500 years. 

The parent body of the Quadrantids was tentatively identified in 2003 by Peter Jenniskens as the minor planet 2003 EH1.

The radiant point of this shower is at the northern edge of the constellation Boötes, not far from the Big Dipper. This meteor shower is best seen in the northern hemisphere, but it can be seen partly to 50 degrees south latitude.
 

The name comes from Quadrans Muralis, a former constellation created in 1795 by the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that is now part of Boötes.

Discovery DateKnown since antiquity
Parent bodyC/1861 G1 (Thatcher)
ConstellationLyra
Occurs duringApril 16 – April 25
Date of peakApril 22
Velocity30 miles/sec
Zenithal hourly rate18

General:
The Lyrids last from April 16 to April 26 each year and appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra, near this constellation’s brightest star, Alpha Lyrae (proper name Vega). Their peak is typically around April 22 each year.

The source of the meteor shower is particles of dust shed by the long-period Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher.  The April Lyrids are the strongest annual shower of meteors from debris of a long-period comet, mainly because as far as other intermediate long-period comets go (200–10,000 years), this one has a relatively short orbital period of about 415 years. The Lyrids have been observed and reported since 687 BC; no other modern shower has been recorded as far back in time. 

The shower usually peaks on around April 22 and the morning of April 23. Counts typically range from 5 to 20 meteors per hour, averaging around 10.

Discovery date1870
Parent bodyHalley’s Comet
ConstellationAquarius (near Eta Aquarii)
Occurs duringApril 19 – May 28
Date of peakMay 6
Velocity42 miles/sec
Zenithal hourly rate55

General:

The shower is visible from about April 19 to about May 28 each year with peak activity on or around May 5. Unlike most major annual meteor showers, there is no sharp peak for this shower, but rather a broad maximum with good rates that last approximately one week centered on May 5. The meteors we currently see as members of the Eta Aquariid shower separated from Halley’s Comet hundreds of years ago. The current orbit of Halley’s Comet does not pass close enough to the Earth to be a source of meteoric activity.

The Eta Aquariids get their name because their radiant appears to lie in the constellation Aquarius, near the bright star, Eta Aquarii. The shower peaks at about a rate of around a meteor per minute, although such rates are rarely seen from Arkansas due to the low altitude of the radiant. The radiant of the shower is only above the horizon for the few hours before dawn, and early-rising observers, away from city lights, are often rewarded with rates that climb as the radiant rises before sunrise. 

Discovery date1870s
Parent body96P/Machholz?
ConstellationAquarius 
Occurs duringJuly 12th – August 23rd
Date of peakJuly 29
Velocity26 miles/sec 
Zenithal hourly rate16

 

General:
The Delta Aquariids are a stronger shower, but it is best seen from the southern tropics. Here in Arkansas, the radiant is located lower in the southern sky and therefore rates are less than would be seen from further south. These meteors produce good rates for a week centered on the night of maximum, unfortunately they are usually faint meteors that lack both persistent trains and fireballs.  Thus if a bright moon is in the sky, it is challenging to watch.

Discovery date1871
Parent body169P/NEAT
ConstellationCapricorn 
Occurs duringJuly 3rd – August 15th
Date of peakJuly 29
Velocity15 miles/sec 
Zenithal hourly rate5

 

General:
This shower is not very strong and rarely produces in excess of five shower members per hour. What is notable about this shower is the number of bright fireballs produced during its activity period.

The meteor shower was created about 3,500 to 5,000 years ago, when about half of the parent body disintegrated and fell into dust. The dust cloud evolved into Earth’s orbit recently, causing a shower with peak rates of 2-5/h, sometimes having outbursts of bright flaring meteors with rates up to 5-9/h.

The bulk of the dust will not be in Earth’s path until the 24th century. The Alpha Capricornids are expected to become a major annual storm in 2220–2420 A.D., one that will be “stronger than any current annual shower.”

Discovery dateAntiquity
Parent body109P/Swift-Tuttle
ConstellationPerseus
Occurs duringJuly 17 – August 24
Date of peakAugust 12 or 13
Velocity37 miles/sec
Zenithal hourly rate100

 

General:

The Perseids is one of the most popular meteor showers of the year.  It is one of the strongest of the annual showers and it peaks on warm August nights. The Perseids are active from July 17 to August 24. They reach a strong maximum on August 12 or 13, depending on the year. Normal rates seen from rural locations range from 50-75 shower members per hour at maximum.   

The Perseids are particles released from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle during its numerous returns to the inner solar system.  The stream of debris is called the Perseid cloud and consists of particles ejected by the comet as it travels on its 133-year orbit. Most of the particles have been part of the cloud for around a thousand years. However, there is also a relatively young filament of dust in the stream that was pulled off the comet in 1865, which can give an early mini-peak the day before the maximum shower. 

Visit our Perseid Meteor Shower Page for updates on this year’s shower.

Discovery date1800s
Parent body1P/Halley
ConstellationOrion
Occurs duringOctober 2nd – November 7th
Date of peakOctober 21
Velocity41 miles/sec
Zenithal hourly rate20 

 

General:

The Orionids are a medium strength shower that sometimes reaches high strength activity. In a normal year the Orionids produce 10-20 meteors at maximum. In exceptional years, such as 2006-2009, the peak rates were on par with the Perseids (50-75 per hour). Recent displays have produced low to average displays of this shower.

This is the most prolific meteor shower associated with Halley’s Comet. 

 Northern TauridsSouthern Taurids
Discovery date  
Parent body2004 TG10
(fragment of 2P/Encke?)
2P/Encke
ConstellationTaurusTaurus
Occurs duringOctober 20 – December 10September 10 – November 20
Date of peakNovember 12October 10
Velocity18 miles/sec17 miles/sec
Zenithal hourly rate55

 

General:

The Taurids are a complex annual meteor shower, associated with comet Encke.   It is really two separate showers, with a Southern and a Northern component. The Southern Taurids originate from Comet Encke, while the Northern Taurids originate from asteroid 2004 TG10, which is believed to be a fragment from Comet Encke that broke off over the past 20,000 to 30,000 years. 

In total, this stream of matter is the largest in the inner solar system. Since the meteor stream is rather spread out in space, Earth takes several weeks to pass through it, causing an extended period of meteor activity, compared with the much smaller periods of activity in other showers. The Taurids are also made up of weightier material, pebbles instead of dust grains.  Thus, when the two showers are active simultaneously in late October and early November, there is sometimes a notable increase in the fireball activity. 

Discovery dateAntiquity?
Parent body55P/Tempel-Tuttle
ConstellationLeo
Occurs duringNovember 6 – November 30th
Date of peakNovember 16
Velocity44 miles/sec
Zenithal hourly rate15 

 

General:

The Leonids are best known for producing meteor storms in the years of 1833, 1866, 1966, 1999, and 2001. These outbursts of meteor activity are best seen when the parent object, comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, is near perihelion (closest approach to the sun). Yet it is not the fresh material we see from the comet, but rather debris from earlier returns that also happen to be most dense at the same time. Unfortunately it appears earth will not encounter any dense clouds of debris until 2099. Therefore when the comet returns in 2031 and 2064, there will be no meteor storms, but perhaps several good displays of Leonid activity when rates are in excess of 100 per hour. The best we can hope for now until the year 2030 is peaks of around 15 shower members per hour and perhaps an occasional weak outburst when the earth passes near a debris trail. The Leonids are often bright meteors with a high percentage of persistent trains.

The 1833 storm was of truly superlative strength. One estimate of the peak rate is over one hundred thousand meteors an hour, but another, done as the storm abated, estimated in excess of 240,000 meteors during the nine hours of the storm,over the entire region of North America east of the Rocky Mountains!  Even President Lincoln commented on the storm years later!

Discovery date1862
Parent body3200 Phaethon (asteroid)
ConstellationGemini
Occurs duringDecember 4th – December 17th
Date of peakDecember 13
Velocity22 miles/sec
Zenithal hourly rate150 

 

General:

The Geminids are usually the strongest meteor shower of the year. This is also the one major shower that provides good activity prior to midnight as the constellation of Gemini rises in the northeast by 9:30pm.  The Geminids are often bright and intensely colored. Due to their medium-slow velocity, persistent trains are not usually seen.

During the late evening hours when the constellation is low, it is possible to see Earthgrazing meteors that streak from one side of the sky to the other.  Though few in number they can be spectacular.   As Gemini rises the number of meteors does as well.  During the peak hours, under dark ideal conditions, it is not unusual to see more than 100 meteors per hour.

It is thought Earth is only recently encountering this meteor stream (since the civil war era) and it is expected to continue to strengthen into the future as the stream shifts into Earth’s orbit over the next few hundred years.  Eventually the stream will shift past Earth and we’ll lose the Geminids.

Visit our Geminid Meteor Shower Page for updates on this year’s shower.

Discovery dateEarly 1900s
Parent body8P/Tuttle
ConstellationUrsa Minor (Little Dipper)
Occurs duringDecember 17th – December 26th
Date of peakDecember 22
Velocity20 miles/sec
Zenithal hourly rate10 

 

General:

The final meteor shower of the year, the Ursids are often neglected because it peaks just before Christmas and the rates are much less than the Geminds, which peaks just a week before. 

This shower normally produces just 5-10 meteors per hour during the late morning hours on the date of maximum activity. However, there have been occasional outbursts when rates have exceeded 25 per hour. 

General Viewing Tips:
Most meteor showers are best viewed from 2-4 am, due to the Earth’s motion around the Sun. While the meteors will appear to ‘radiate’ from one point in the sky, there is no one direction that is better to look in to see the most shooting stars.  They can appear anywhere in the sky.  Rest back in a lawn chair that lets you look up and face in the direction that has the darkest (looking away from city lights, moon, etc) and clearest view.

Want to try your hand at photographing a meteor: Meteor Photography Tips

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