December 30th, 2012 by James Ayre
The Quadrantids meteor shower will be peaking in the early morning hours on Thursday January 3, 2013. It’s expected to be a great show this year, with a maximum rate of around 80 meteors an hour. But it could go much higher, up to more than 200.
There is also expected to be some light interference from the Moon though. So that may cut down somewhat on how many Quadrantids are visible.
“Unlike the more famous Perseid and Geminid meteor showers, the Quadrantids only last a few hours, so it’s the morning of Jan. 3 or nothing. Given the location of the radiant — northern tip of Bootes the Herdsman — only observers at latitudes north of 51 degrees south will be able to see Quadrantids.”
“Like the Geminids, the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid, called 2003 EH1. Dynamical studies suggest that this body could very well be a piece of a comet which broke apart several centuries ago, and that the meteors you will see before dawn on Jan. 3 are the small debris from this fragmentation. After hundreds of years orbiting the sun, they will enter our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth’s surface — a fiery end to a long journey.”
For those looking for more information: Best Meteor Showers of 2013.
I’ve compiled some general tips on watching meteor showers below:
One: Get in a comfortable position, a reclining lawn chair and some blankets are good ideas.
Two: Dress warmly, and maybe bring something warm to drink.
Three: Get out of the city if you can, the light pollution from city lights greatly diminishes the number and intensity of of the meteors that you can see. A clear, dark sky is what you want.
Some background on the Quadrantids:
“The Quadrantids (QUA) are a January meteor shower. The zenithal hourly rate of this shower can be as high as two other reliably rich meteor showers, the Perseids in August and the Geminids in December. Yet Quadrantid meteors are not seen as often as meteors in these other two showers, because the peak intensity is exceedingly sharp, sometimes lasting only hours.”
“The meteor rates exceed one-half of their highest value for only about 8 hours (compared to two days for the August Perseids). This means that the stream of particles that produces this shower is narrow – and apparently deriving from and within the last 500 years from some orbiting body. The parent body of the Quadrantids was tentatively identified in 2003 by Peter Jenniskens as the minor planet 2003 EH1, which in turn may be related to the comet C/1490 Y1 that was observed by Chinese, Japanese and Korean astronomers some 500 years ago.”
“The radiant of this shower is an area inside the constellation Boötes, not far from the Big Dipper. It lies between the end of the handle of the Big Dipper and the quadrilateral of stars marking the head of the constellation Draco. This meteor shower is best seen in the northern hemisphere, but you can see Quadrantids down to -51 degrees latitude.”
Image Credits: Meteor Shower via Wikimedia Commons
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