The first months of each year have a relative dearth of meteor showers, so the Quadrantides often elicit diehard white shooting stars in the first week. The show some sky watchers were hoping for was delivered on Tuesday night and Wednesday evening.
While December is packed with opportunities to catch the abundant Geminid and Ursid meteors, the quadrennial meteor shower is the only major shower in the first quarter of the year, and it shines briefly on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning this week.
Likeand The Quadrants are often among the heaviest showers of the year, but these meteors usually don’t come as close as the northern summer Perseids hit in August during the summer holidays for many circuses. Even the window of opportunity to see the Quadrantids is very narrow, with the peak of the most intense activity lasting just six hours this year, according to the American Meteor Society.
Other showers may have peaks that last for a day or two, with a smaller but still decent amount of activity extending over the days before and after the actual peak.
Stellar 2021 Perseid meteor shower shines in shots around the globe
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There are two things to be considered in taking the quadrants: at what time the rain peaks in a given location, and at what height of the quadrant of the night sky, where the quadrant meteors appear to have arisen from that time.
Predicting the exact time of peak activity for the meteor shower offers no guarantees, but the target range for the best viewing times this year is between 3:40 am and 6:40 am UTC on Jan 4. (7:40 pm to 10:40 pm TP on Tuesday). Now that area of the sky that radiates from the outside of the Quadrantids is in the area of the constellation Bootis the herdsman, and this radiation was highest in the sky between about 2 am and 6 am local.
Where these two windows overlap in the Northern Hemisphere, you have the best spots on the planet to keep the Quadrantids. This week it seemed to be just about any local in or near the North Atlantic.
Predictions of about 25 quadrants per hour were made under ideal conditions, including plenty of shooting stars and a few balls. A lucky outbreak of the Quadrantids, which produces up to 120 meteors per hour, was also possible, according to some predictions.
On Wednesday evening, the International Project for Radio Meteor Observations already reported detections of up to 120 meteors per hour, although it is unlikely that anyone could see each of these with the naked eye, given the large part of the moon that was. 92% full night.
What you’re actually going to see when the meteor streaks across the sky is the flint or pebble-sized asteroid 2003 EH1, which some astronomers believe is an extinct comet or a new type of object sometimes called a “rock comet”. “Over the centuries, EH1 has left a trail of debris in its path, and our planet passes through that stream of debris every January.
If you miss it, mark your calendar for the next major meteor shower, which unfortunately isn’t until the Lyrids become active in late April.
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