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
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
|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
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
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.
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.
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,
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).
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.
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.