Professional photographer Jeff Berkes captured numerous Quadrantid meteors in this long-exposure image taken in the Florida Keys on Jan. 2, 2012, throughout the yearly Quadrantid meteor shower. The 2020 Quadrantids will peak on Jan. 2 and 3.
Early each January, the Quadrantid meteor shower offers among the most extreme annual meteor screens, with its quick, sharp peak– which just lasts just a couple of hours– coming this year overnight on Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 2-3).
The meteors actually radiate from the northeast corner of the constellation of Boötes, the Rancher, so we may expect them to be called the “Boötids.” Back in the late 18 th century there was a constellation here called Quadrans Muralis, the “Mural or Wall Quadrant” (a huge instrument). It is a long-obsolete star pattern, invented in 1795 by J.J. Lalande to celebrate the instrument used to observe the stars in his brochure.
Adolphe Quetelet of Brussels Observatory found the shower in the 1830 s, and shortly afterward it was kept in mind by numerous astronomers in Europe and America. Hence, they were christened “Quadrantids” (pronounced KWA-dran-tids) and even though the constellation from which these meteors appear to radiate no longer exists, the shower’s initial name continues to this day.
2021: A Poor Quad Year
Regrettably, this will not be a good year to look for the “Quads” for 2 factors. Chalk it up simply to bad timing.
First, the peak of this year’s shower is predicted for either 10 a.m. EST or 7 a.m. EST on Jan. 3. So, throughout the adjoining U.S. and southern Canada, maximum activity will come throughout intense morning twilight or daylight conditions. Remember what we said: this is a dramatically peaked screen, so six hours prior to the peak activity will just be about a half of its optimum rate. For the eastern U.S., hourly rates of 30 to 60 meteors per hour are possible, while for the western U.S., hourly rates may reach 45 to 90; still exceptional numbers so far as a lot of meteor showers go.
But sadly, there’s a far larger stumbling block for prospective meteor watchers this year in the form of the moon In one out of every 3 years, intense moonlight spoils the view and this is one of those years.
In 2021, the moon turns complete 5 days before the peak of the shower. That indicates that on the early morning of Jan. 3, there is going to be a brilliant waning gibbous moon, 81%lit up, located in the constellation Leo the Lion, that will be reaching its highest point in the sky at about half past three in the early morning.
So, all through the over night hours of Saturday and into Sunday (Jan. 2-3), the sky will be illuminated with brilliant moonlight. That moonlight will likely squelch all but the brightest of meteors. This particular meteor screen is at its finest just before the break of dawn– about 6 a.m. regional time– when the glowing of this shower, from which the meteors appear to originate, is rising the northeastern sky.
So, factoring that brilliant moon in ways that if you live in the eastern U.S., you might not see more than a half lots of these blue streakers during a single hour. Out west, it may be a little better; you might see about 10 or two Quads per hour.
Crumbs of a dead comet?
At biggest activity, 60 to 120 Quadrantid meteors per hour are generally seen. The Quadrantid increase is sharply peaked: six hours prior to and after maximum, these blue meteors appear at half of their greatest rates.So, the stream of particles that produce this shower is a narrow one– obviously obtained within the last 500 years from a little comet.
The parentage of the Quadrantids had actually long been a mystery. Dr. Peter Jenniskens, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, saw that the orbit of 2003 EH1– a little asteroid discovered in March 2003– ‘‘ falls snug in the shower” He believes that this 1.2-mile. (2 kilometers) portion of rock is the source of the Quadrantids; possibly this asteroid is the burnt-out core of the lost comet C/1490 Y1.
As viewed from mid-northern latitudes, we have to get up prior to dawn to see the Quadrantids at their best. This is because the radiant– that part of the sky from where the meteors to emanate– is down short on the northern horizon till about midnight, increasing slowly greater as the night progresses. The growing light of dawn ends meteor observing usually by around 6 a.m. So, if the “Quads” are to be seen at all, some part of that six-hour active period must fall between 2 and 6 a.m.
Stay warm and “shower” with a buddy
Last But Not Least– and I have actually touched on this point numerous times before, however definitely it ought to be addressed again– your regional weather condition will likely be more appropriate for taking in a hot bath as opposed to a winter meteor shower. At this time of year meteor seeing can be a long, cold organization. You wait and you wait for meteors to appear and when they don’t appear right away, and if you’re cold and uncomfortable, you’re not going to be looking for meteors for extremely long!