The annual Quadrantid Meteor Shower reaches its peak Wednesday morning January 3rd officially at 14:19 UT (9:14 am CST). The Quadrantids are one of the best meteor showers of the year but does not get much attention possibly because it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, and this area of the sky is not easily seen from south of the equator.
The ZHR (average hourly rate) for this meteor shower ranges from 60 to several hundred. Best time for viewing is before sunrise as your part of the Earth is rotating toward the east sort of putting you headfirst into the meteor shower. To find the radiant for this meteor shower look for the stars of the Big Dipper and then look below the end stars in the handle.
Adding to the thrill of seeing a shooting star are the the planets Jupiter and Mars about 1o apart and closing in on a very close 0.2o separation on the 6th. Look closely and you may see Zubenelgenubi, one of the stars making up Libra the Scales. All three fit comfortably within the field of view of binoculars and contrast nicely in their respective apparent magnitudes (magnitudes shown on graphic).
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. It is a picture, or mural, of a Quadrant that had been used to map the stars. The Quadrantids 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 monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.
What would it be like without stars at night? What is it we lose? Starry night skies have given us poetry, art, music and the wonder to explore. A bright night sky (aka light pollution) affects energy consumption, health and wildlife too. Spend a few minutes to help scientists by measuring the brightness of your night sky. Join the GLOBE at Night citizen-science campaign (www.globeatnight.org). The first campaign starts January 3 and runs through January 12.
Anyone who enjoys the starry night sky is probably well aware of the effects of light pollution on viewing the starry skies. And light pollution comes in many forms including the reflected light from the Moon – as I experienced earlier this morning while trying to take pictures of the Quadrantid Meteors. Moonlight was bright enough that I did not need my pocket flashlight to adjust settings on my camera!
This animated graphic shows part of Arabia at night at different Moon phases. An insert picture of the Moon at the phase when the picture was taken has been added. Check out the original images on the NASA Earth Observatory web site showing the effects of moonlight on the surface of the Earth – as seen from orbit.
Here is a short story about light pollution I wrote years ago as part of an achievement award for Girl Scouts. Aunt Nan’s Missing Star.
Click here to learn more about light pollution from the International Dark Sky Association.
Here is a wonderfully illustrated and narrated story about the effects of light pollution on what we are unable to see in the night skies as a result. More importantly it shows how light polluted night skies have an effect on living things – especially those that are night types. (8 minutes)
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.