There is a relative dearth of meteor showers in the early months of each year, so during the first week the Quadrantids often attract deadly shooting stargazers outside. Tuesday night and Tuesday provided the show some sky watchers were hoping for.
While December is packed with opportunities to catch many Gemini and Ursid meteors, the Quadrantid meteor shower is the only major shower of the year and peaked briefly on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning this week.
Whom Twins and Ursids, the Quadrantids are often among the strongest showers of the year, but these meteors don’t generate as much hype as the northern summer Perseids in August, which hit during summer vacation for many skywatchers. Also, the window of opportunity to see the Quadrantids is very narrow, with the peak of intense activity lasting only six hours this year. American Meteorological Society.
Other showers may have peaks that last a day or two, with less, but still a decent amount of activity extending into the days before and after the current peak.
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There are two factors to consider when capturing quadrantids: when the shower peaks at a particular location, and how high the quadrant of the night sky is at that time in which the quadrantid meteors originate.
There’s no guarantee of predicting the exact moment of peak activity for a meteor shower, but the target range for the best viewing times this year was January 3:40 a.m. to 6:40 a.m. UTC. 4 (Tuesday 7:40pm to 10:40pm PT). However, the area of the sky where the Quadrantids radiate outward is in the constellation Bootes the Shepherd, and this ray was highest in the sky from about 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. local time.
Where these two windows overlap in the Northern Hemisphere are the best spots on the planet to observe the Quadrantids. It looked like almost any region in or near the North Atlantic this week.
Forecasts called for about 25 quadrantids per hour under ideal conditions, including lots of shooting stars and a few fireballs. According to some predictions, a successful explosion of the Quadrantids, producing up to 120 meteors per hour, was also possible.
Tuesday evening International Project on Radio Meteor Observations was already reporting up to 120 meteors an hour, although last night’s 92% full Moon made it unlikely that anyone would be able to see every single one of them with the naked eye.
What you see when a Quadrantid meteor streaks across the sky is a speck or pebble-sized piece of sky. Asteroid 2003 EH1, Some astronomers believe it may be a new type of object, sometimes called an extinct comet or a “rocky comet.” EH1 has left a trail of debris over the centuries, and our planet passes through that sediment stream every January.
If you missed it, mark your calendar for the next big meteor shower, unfortunately not until the Lyrids become active in late April.
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