The next upcoming meteor shower is one of my favorites, the January 2013 Quadrantids. The last three years, the Quadrantids was not as active as it was in 2009, where I was stunned by how full of life this meteor shower was. This Meteor Shower is known to generate up to 120 meteors per hour. In 2009, the meteors appeared to be a bluish-white in color and the Quadrantids seemed to flicker, blink and roll as they splashed across the sky at a staggering speed of about 41 kilometers per second (or 92,000 mph). As they popped into view, their activity came downward from their radiant with a cheery gate as if to say, “look here!” before they quickly disappeared. This event commenced on December 28th 2012 and will continue to be active until January 12th 2013. The Quadrantids have a very short peak with a window of opportunity to see them in their full strength in the morning of January 4th.
Where to look for and identify the Quadrantids? Firstly, one should locate the Big Dipper using the diagram below. Quadrantids can be seen anywhere in the sky and if you see one in an area, you’re likely to see more in that spot, so keep your eyes transfixed to that location.
As I stated there is a very short period where the chances of tracking them visually is strong. This makes for a difficult viewing experience for those who don’t have the patience or time to spend on watching this event for a long period of time. In the morning hours of January 4th, weather permitting it will be virtually perfect for spotting the Quadrantids this year. As with most meteor showers they are best seen in the morning hours before daybreak.
What is the radiant and why Bootes?
The radiant, a region where the meteors will seem to emanate from is the constellation Bootes. This constellation was originally named Quadrans Muralis. In 1922, Quadrans Muralis was not added to the new list of eighty-eight modern constellations. The name was changed to Bootes, but the name of the meteor shower, the Quadrantids, remained the same.
The Quadrantids are a fascinating meteor shower for a couple of reasons. The first is because the majority of meteor showers are associated with a specific comet and second is that meteor showers get their name or radiant from the constellation where they seem to originate. These two “rules” do not apply to the Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The parent body of the Quadrantids is not a comet, it is a near-earth asteroid named 2003 EH1 and their radiant constellation name is Bootes. There has been speculation by many scientists that the event’s parent is a piece of the comet C/1490 Y1 that crumbled almost 500 years ago. It was only in 2003 that the origin of the Quadrantids was known. A group of scientists designed a mathematical equation that turned their attention to the acknowledged source, the asteroid 2003 EH1.
In 2009, this meteor shower was one of the more appealing meteor showers that I viewed but it only lasted for a short period of time. In 2010 and 2012, it was very weak and threatened by a glowing moon coupled with extremely cold weather in the morning when I observed. This year I hope it will deliver greater meteor activity like it did in 2009 and with warmer temperatures. The best thing that can contribute to a worthwhile showing will be the fact that there will be no moon in the sky. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.
If you would like to take a look at this meteor shower, I suggest finding a safe, dark area and locate the constellation Bootes in the morning of January 4th. This year the Quadrantids will be competing with moonlight because of the Waxing Gibbous Moon phase. This means viewers will see less meteors. If this shower is as strong as it was in 2009, it will undoubtedly be worth a look. In 2009, I witnessed about 1 to 3 meteors a minute or about 80 to 120 an hour. This year I feel it will probably not be the same, however I make no guarantee that it will be good nor bad as the conditions and meteoroids streams are always unpredictable and changeable.
Your questions and comments are welcome. If you enjoyed my blog and found this information useful, why not buy me a cup of coffee? I can use them during the morning on January 4th while watching the Quadrantids!
Keep your head up.
- Meteor Mark
Quadrantids Meteor Shower January 2013