Meteor Quadrantids, 2014
credits: Tommy Eliassen
I start the New Year with the Quandrantid Meteor Shower. The first meteor display of 2016 – the Quadrantid meteor shower - will hit its peak early Monday morning (Jan. 4), with a strong display of "shooting stars" likely for Europe and North America.
Weather permitting, observers in the eastern regions of the United States and Canada will be in position for the maximum activity from the Quadrantid meteor shower, which is expected about 3 a.m. EST, when the radiant of the shower will be well up the dark northeastern sky. This is perfect timing – it falls right in our prime meteor-watching hours before dawn.
The meteors appear to radiate from a spot on the sky midway between the last handle star of the Big Dipper and the head of Draco, the Dragon. The radiant is actually located within the boundaries of the constellation of Boötes, the Herdsman, so we might expect them to be called the "Boötids."
The Quadrantid meteor, 2012
credits: Roberto Porto
Meanwhile, the peak of the Quadrantid meteor shower lasts only a few hours. So you have to be on the right part of Earth, the part that’s in nighttime – preferably with the radiant high in your sky – during those few hours of the shower’s peak, in order to see the most Quadrantid meteors.
In the pre-dawn hours of Monday, January 4, the first meteor shower of the year, the Quadrantids, reaches its maximum.
The Quadrantid meteor shower is always the first meteor shower of every new year, and 2016 is no exception.
The good news is that, in 2016, the waning crescent moon shouldn’t too greatly disrupt the shower.
Now the not-so-good news. Although the Quadrantides put out 50 or more meteors in a dark sky, the Quadrantids’ peak is very narrow. The peaks of the Perseid shower or Geminid shower persist more or less for a day or more, allowing all time zones around the world to enjoy a good display of Perseids and Geminids.
The peak of the Quadrantid meteor shower lasts only a few hours. Peak rates this morning will range anywhere from 60 to 120 shooting stars per hour from a dark location.
The meteors will appear to radiate from the northeast sky, just off the handle of the Big Dipper. This is the site of Quadrans Muralis, a constellation no longer recognized by astronomers but which gave the Quadrantids their name.
The Quadrantid? Origin of the name:
The name Quadrantids comes from the constellation Quadrans Muralis (Mural Quadrant), created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795. This now-obsolete constellation was located between the constellations of Bootes the Herdsman and Draco the Dragon. Where did it go?
How to view:
Day and night sides of Earth at the predicted peak of the Quadrantid meteor shower (2016 January 4 at 8 Universal Time).
If the prediction holds – which is a big If - then northwestern Europe, northeastern North America and Greenland all have a shot at seeing the Quandrantid meteor shower at or near its peak in the dark hours before dawn January 4, 2016.
If the peak comes a few hours later than predicted, the advantage would go to North America. If the peak comes earlier than expected, the advantage shifts over to Europe. Only time will tell.
So you have to be on the right part of Earth, the part that’s in nighttime – preferably with the radiant high in your sky – during those few hours of the shower’s peak, in order to see the most Quadrantid meteors.
Although the Quadrantids can produce over 100 meteors per hour, the sharp peak of this shower tends to last only a few hours, and doesn’t always come at an opportune time.
In other words, you have to be in the right spot on Earth to view this meteor shower in all its splendor. The radiant point is in the part of the sky that used to be considered the constellation Quadrans Muralis the Mural Quadrant.
You’ll find this radiant near the famous Big Dipper asterism, in the north-northeastern sky after midnight and highest up before dawn. Because the radiant is fairly far to the north on the sky’s dome, meteor numbers will be greater at northerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere.
Tomorrow, the 4 January 2016, we have the possibility to admire 13 the Quadantrid meteor shower.
Wow! Even on the first day of school time after the Christmas holidays. Our students will be happy with this new challenge.
The winter, cold temperatures contribute in making this shower neglected by the public, while it offer bright, very enjoyable meteors.
Most of us are excited about the Quadrantid shower, specially if you teach sciences or are science students. Of course, skywatchers as well.
My usual readers know I don't teach sciences, but humanities. But I'm a passionate of science and all the high technology near science.
Do you remember the Science education: Ready to watch the Geminids shower last 13 December, 2015? Just awesome! A sky full of stars.
This time, the European teachers and students are in school. A good natural resource in the sky to enhance the first day of Sciences lesson! The Quadrantids.
You have a perfect lesson to start the science course 2016.
"The night sky tonight on any clear night offers an ever-changing display of fascinating objects you can see, from stars and constellations to bright planets, often the moon, and sometimes special events like meteor showers."
Observing the night sky will enhance some experiences to understand science. If you and your students are extremely lucky – and at the right northerly location on the globe – perhaps you’ll see some Quadrantid meteors in the predawn hours on January 4.
During the Quadrantid shower skywatching, teachers and students can be skywatchers, and at the same time do some good shots, or videos with iphones, smartphones or tablets.
The event will be discussed next lesson(s).
- National Geographic news: the video Meteor Showers
Twitter: NASA solar system : hashtag #
Google + : Space.com
Sciences curricula : Catch Some Falling Stars, the Quadrantids by G-Souto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.