The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

A Cold Meteor Shower

The Quadrantid meteor shower is about to peak.  The Quadrantids would be famous if they were occurred at a warmer time of year as their rates can frequently approach 100 per hour, comparing favorably with the Perseids in August.  Unfortunately, you need some good cold weather gear to see this meteor shower.

The Quadrantids peak at about 1UT on January 4th (8pm EST, 5pm PST).  The Quandrantids have a very narrow peak intensity that lasts only a few hours (unlike the Perseids and Geminids which can be good for a couple of days either side of their peaks) so you if you are going to catch them, you get one shot.  Fortunately the new Moon is on the 4th so the skies will be nice and dark all night long for optimal viewing.

Most meteor showers are named for the constellation in which their radiant is located which means you might wonder where “Quadrantid” is located.  They are named after the constellation Quadrans Muralis which just didn’t make the cut when the constellations were made official.  The constellation was between what is now Booetes and the head of Draco.  You can see the location on the chart below.

You can see I made that chart for 3:15am, so it takes a while for the radiant to get up very high.  You might catch a few Earth grazers early in the evening, but you have to stay up pretty late (or get up pretty early) for the real show to begin.  Since the radiant of this shower is so far north, those basking in the southern hemisphere summer don’t have a good view of this shower!

It is known to put on a good show…if you catch a break and get an abnormally warm January night, it’s worth checking out.

January 3, 2011 - Posted by | Meteor shower, Observing

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