Category: Cosmic Events Written by CrystalWind.ca
The Quadrantid meteor shower is 2023’s first major meteor shower. From 12 December to 12 January, the Quadrantid meteor shower will be active, with its peak meteor production occurring Tuesday and Wednesday, January 3-4, 2023.
The Moon in Taurus will be just two days away from reaching full phase when the shower peaks, producing significant interference throughout the whole night. Due this interference viewing conditions for the Quadrantid this year will be less than optimal.
Although the Quadrantids have been known to produce some 50-100 meteors in a dark sky, their peak is extremely narrow, time-wise. Peaks of the Perseid or Geminid meteor showers persist for a day or more, allowing all time zones around the world to enjoy a good display of Perseids or Geminids. But the Quadrantids’ peak lasts only a few hours.
So you have to be on the right part of Earth – preferably with the radiant high in your sky – in order to experience the peak of the Quadrantids. What’s more, the shower favors the Northern Hemisphere because its radiant point is so far north on the sky’s dome.
The finest places to see quadrantids are typically in the most northern US states, Canada, Asia, and regions of northern Europe. Look up at the sky in the north or northwest for them in the Bootes constellation, which is situated just below the Big Dipper and above Draco.
That said, in 2023 the International Meteor Organization gives the peak as January 4 at 04:00 UTC. If that prediction of the peak holds true, North America has a good shot at viewing the shower at its best during the predawn hours on January 4.
Just know that meteor showers are notorious for defying the best-laid forecasts. Thus for the Quadrantids – as for any meteor shower – your best plan is simply to look for yourself.
To find the radiant, you will need to look for the constellation Bootes. The easiest way to find it is to look north for the Big Dipper. Then, follow the "arc" of the Big Dipper's handle across the sky to the red giant star Arcturus, which anchors the bottom of Bootes.
If you happen to catch the shower at an off-peak moment, rates of about 25 meteors per hour are still expected. In the past, Lunsford has recommended keeping Bootes in your field of view, but looking slightly away so that you catch the meteors with the longer tails.
Where do they come from?
The Quadrantids are thought to be associated with asteroid 2003 EH1, which is likely an extinct comet, Cooke has told Space.com. "It was either a piece of a comet or a comet itself, and then it became extinct," which means that all the ice and other volatiles on the comet have evaporated, he said.
The asteroid has a perihelion (closest approach to the sun) just inside the Earth's orbit, which is pretty far away in celestial terms. Scientists also think that the asteroid may have some connection to the Comet 96P/Machholtz, a comet that orbits the sun once every six years. First observations of the Quadrantids shower appear to be in Europe in the 1820s and 1830s. [How Meteor Showers Work (Infographic) below.]
How to get the best view
Binoculars and telescopes are not useful for meteor showers; your eyes are enough to see the shooting stars streaking overhead. Find a dark sky and give your eyes about 20-30 minutes to adjust.
Dress warmly and face a little away from the radiant in Bootes to catch the longer-streaking meteors.
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