Quadrantids Meteor Shower

3 January - 4:00 a.m. CST

3 January – 4:00 a.m. CST

   There has been an increase in news noise about viewing the Quadrantid Meteor Shower during the early hours of tomorrow (Thursday) morning. But none have mentioned that the Moon also rises at about the same time as the radiant for the meteor shower, and that reflected light from the waning gibbous Moon will ‘drown’ out all but the brightest of the meteors. Sigh!!!
   However the average hourly rate for this meteor shower ranges from 60 to several hundred so I think there are good odds that some meteors will still be seen despite the interference from moonlight. To maximize the viewing wait until about an hour or so before dawn when the radiant is high above the horizon, then face northward putting the Moon behind you.
Boötes the Herdsman

Boötes the Herdsman

   The radiant is the area from where the meteors seem to radiate outward from. Meteor showers owe their name to the constellation region the radiant is located within and as this graphic shows the radiant is within the boundary of the constellation Boötes the Herdsman. So why the name Quadrantids?
   On some of the older star charts there is a now ‘extinct’ constellation called Quadrans Muralis, the Mural. This was a constellation located between Boötes and Draco the Dragon that was created in 1795 by French Astronomer Jérôme Lalande. The Meteor Shower was named for the no longer used constellation.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Moon Near the Pleiades

27 November – 8 p.m. CST

   This evening the waxing gibbous Moon is within 4-5 degrees from the open star cluster the Pleiades as this graphic shows.
   The Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, is open star cluster of several hundred (to possibly more than 1,000) stars with the brightest dozen or so visible to the naked eye at about a combined 1st magnitude brightness. This star cluster has been observed and named by many cultures around the world and was designated as M-45 by French Astronomer and comet hunter Charles Messier in his catalog of celestial objects he had ruled out as non-comets. Given its size at about 2-degrees the Pleiades are hard not to notice, even at times like this evening when the near full Moon is close. When you observe this star cluster you are looking at relatively young stars located around 300-400 light years from us. In time-exposure images there is often some nebulosity shown surrounding some of the stars. This is not remnants of the material the stars formed out of but rather is an interstellar cloud of dust and gases that the star cluster is passing through.

   Tomorrow the Moon meets Jupiter, is eclipsed, and is this year’s “Super-Mini” Moon.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.