Overview of possible Future Meteor Storms

The Leonids are history now and presented us a superb meteor activity ("storm levels") in 1999, 2001 and 2002. I was lucky to observe both the 1999 and 2001 events - the latter under nearly perfect conditions. Unfortunately, my 2002 expedition was a complete miss, due to bad weather. 

So, what's up for the next decades ? Any meteor shower outbursts or storms to be expected ? 

This short article summarizes the present views regarding meteor showers, that are likely to produce outburst- or storm activity levels in the period 2003 till 2030. [Note added in 2008 : this page has not been updated with the actual outcome of these predictions].

As always, these predictions are to be treated with great care : both the timing and peak values can be highly incorrect. It's even fair to assume that the chances on seeing an unpredicted meteor storm in the next 20 to 30 years are as high (or low) as seeing one of the events below materializing.


Perseids 2004

The Perseids are associated with parent comet P/Swift-Tuttle, that has an orbital period of approximately 130 years. The last perihelium passage of Swift-Tuttle was in 1992. The one before was in 1862. According to calculations by Esko Lyytinen, in 2004 Earth will pass inside the 1-revolution trail from the 1862 comet passage, at a distance of approx. +0.0012 AU (August 11.871 UT). This is not really a close approach, but with these conditions and no prior storms to judge by, it is uncertain what kind of activity one might expect. The most favorable viewing locations will be Europe and Western Asia, with little to no moon interference.

According to Lyytinen, ZHR rates of about 100 are to be expected from the 1862 dust trail, assuming that the number of particles released are the same as for the Leonids' parent comet Tempel-Tuttle. 

J. Carlos Casado observed the Leonids 2002 storm on Nov 19, 2002. He combined 30 one-minute exposures, using a fisheye lens, to create the image above. The observing site was the Cape Creus Nature Park in Spain.

Lyytinen further notes : "Since the Perseids parent comet is a lot bigger than the Leonids comet, there may be a chance of storm level activity. Because Jupiter lowers the ecliptic crossing radii, in general in 2004 enhanced activity is to be expected". Peak activity will last very shortly, with a half-strength duration of about 15 minutes only. Lyytinen further comments that the outburst will consist of relatively dim meteors.


Alpha Monocerotids 2005

The Alpha Monocerotids are noted for their variable activity which in some years is virtually non-existent while in others the maximum ZHR has exceeded 100 meteors per hour. Outbursts have occurred in 1925, 1935, 1985 and 1995, suggesting a 10 year periodicity. 

The 1995 outburst of the Alpha Monocerotids (on November 22) was particularly well observed by a Dutch team of meteor observers, headed by Dr. Peter Jenniskens. This event started around 1h10m UT, on November 22, and was all but over by 1h50m UT. The peak rate occurred near 1h29m UT, when up to 5 meteors per minute were recorded. This translates to peak ZHR rates of about 500.

Given the assumed 10 year periodicity, Joe Rao recently pointed to the fact that there is a chance of a strong, albeit brief outburst from the Alpha Monocerotids shower in November 2005 (although the Moon will be major hindrance).  


Left : woodcut depicting the Leonids storm of 1799. Alexander von Humboldt observed the event on November 12/13, 1799 when he landed in Venezuela to begin his South American exploration.


Alpha Aurigids 2007

The only information I could trace back regarding a possible outburst of the Alpha Aurigids in 2007, is a message posted by Robert Lunsford to the meteorsobs mailing list. I will post more information on this page, once available. 


Draconids (Giacobinids) 2018

Earth will be passing the node of comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner (parent comet of the Draconids) in 2018, only 22.7 days after the comet itself has passed by this same region of space. According to meteor expert Joe Rao, the separation between the respective orbits of Earth and the comet will be 0.017 AU, that is roughly midway between the situation that produced a storm over Europe in 1933 (ZHR = 5000) and a heavy shower over Japan in 1985 (ZHR ~ 800). 

No accurate projections have yet been made for the 2018 Draconids shower, but applying the old "analog method" of matching Earth's orbit relative to that of the parent comet, Don Yeomans of NASA/JPL calculated the nodal crossing time should be near October 9.0 UT (the Moon will be new on this occasion).


Schwassmann-Wachmann3-ids 2022

Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 did fragment during its 1995 perihelium passage. Considerable amounts of dusts likely have been ejected during that passage, according to work by Hartwig  Luethen, Rainer Arlt and Michael Jaeger. The comet and also its dust trails are very much subject to perturbations, which spreads the area of possible meteor radiants across a vast portion of the sky in the Boo/Cvn area. Although the meteors, originating from comet 73P, are sometimes called Tau Herculids, it is evident that one should avoid this expression, given the broad radiant size. 

The dust trail of the famous 1995 passage of comet 73P will be encountered by Earth in 2022 on May 31.205 UT at a 'miss distance' of only 0.0004 AU. Peak levels could be very substantial. The moon will be new at that time, and best observing conditions are in the USA.

There are more encounters with dust trails, which have been released at other (probably more normal) returns of the comet, in 2011 and 2017.


Perseids 2028

In 2028, Earth will pass within about -0.0004 AU of the 4-revolution trail, produced by parent comet P/Swift-Tuttle in 1479. Lyytinen expects this encounter to produce a real storm activity of the Perseids, on August 12.229 UT. Most favorable viewing location will be the USA, although the moon will seriously interfere.





Copyright © 2002 - Tonny Vanmunster.