Sunday, July 29, 2012

Southern Delta Aquarid Fireballs of July 28th

The above image is an overlapping of multiple frames of a July 28th fireball. Its passing was captured by camera "Huntsville (01A)" of NASA's All Fireball Network, taken July 28th at 05:54 UTC. Image Credit: NASA

Well, if anyone had doubts about the parentage of the Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower, they may have just been swept away. It looks like 96P/Machholz has paternity (or is it maternity?).

Over the evening of July 27th-28th, NASA's All Fireball Network ( detected 17 fireballs over North America with the brightness of Venus (currently magnitude -4.6). And what's more, at least half of these meteors had projected orbits corresponding with that of Comet 96P/Machholz, discovered by amateur astronomer Donald Machholz in 1986.

The comet is currently in the neighborhood. It reached perihelion on July 14 and it will have its closest approach to Earth on August 1st (0.894 AU). At that time the comet should be at celestial coordinates (J2000) R.A. 11h 21m 08.8s Dec. +26d 10m 25s with a brightness of magnitude 10.31.

Comet 96P/Machholz is currently in the constellation Leo, the Lion. For this weekend, the coordinates are: July 28th, R.A. 10h 33m 05.5s Dec. +29d 14m 15s (mag 9.33); July 29th, R.A. 10h 45m 33.2s Dec. +28d 35m 37s (mag 9.59). The best chance of observing the comet is through a medium-sized telescope, where under high magnification it looks like a tiny, fuzzy ball.

To learn more about meteors, comets, and asteroids, check out these URLs.

NASA's All Fireball Network (, part of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, .

Asteroids, Comets, Meteorites (a NASA Asteroid Watch article):

NASA's Near-Earth Object (NEO) Program coordinates NASA-sponsored efforts to detect, track and characterize potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that could approach the Earth. To learn more, visit the home page of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program: .


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