The Alpha Aurigids Meteor Shower

The last day of August will amuse us with one of the rarest meteor showers. Read our article to learn about the Alpha Aurigids meteor shower, the campaign organized for this special astronomical event, and how to see it in the skies.

The phenomenon we call a meteor shower occurs when the Earth’s orbit goes through the debris or dust grains left by a space object, typically, a comet. Debris particles enter the orbit at high speed and quickly burn out in the atmosphere. Meteor showers provide a spectacular view for observers from the Earth and give astronomers a perfect opportunity to collect information about a particular comet.

What do we know about the Alpha Aurigids?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the meteor shower is visible in a northeasterly direction, late at night, about 23:00. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Alpha Aurigids can be seen from about 3:00 near the horizon. You will only have about a couple hours worth of viewing time due to the rising Sun that will hide the “falling stars”. Check the Sun’s rise time for your location with Star Walk 2.

One of the rarest meteor showers

In 1935, this meteor stream was discovered due to its high activity and bright splashes it produced in the skies. Seventy-two years later, in 2007, the Aurigids’ highest rate was more than 100 meteors per hour. According to the European Space Agency, the dust trail of comet Kiess will not be crossed again in this manner for 70 years. Nowadays, we can expect this meteor shower to produce only around 6 meteors per hour at the peak of activity, assuming the excellent visible conditions (stars visible up to magnitude 6,5). The real rate that can be seen is nearly always lower and decreases the closer the radiant comes to the horizon.

The observation campaign

Within this campaign, visual, triangulation, and spectroscopic observation methods were used. Although the peak failed to appear over Hawaii, the airborne campaign recorded an hourly rate of 40 meteors. Reports about hundreds of meteoroids were obtained in North America and Scandinavia.

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