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Quadrantids, meteor shower, 2019
Credit Meteorwatch @VirtualAstro

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2019 is above all others this year the one to watch. In fact, It will probably be the best meteor shower of the year.

But why? “Aren’t the Perseids in August and Geminids in December the best?” I hear you say. They aren’t this year I’m afraid.

Read on to find out why the Quadrantids above all others could be the best meteor shower of 2019

Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2019

The Quadrantids will probably be the best meteor shower of the new year. 2019 isn’t looking good as far as meteor showers go. Both of the main two meteor showers. The Perseids in August and Geminids in December occur with a full, or nearly full moon present. This will wash out all but the brightest of the meteors in those showers with bright moonlight.

Most of the meteor showers in 2019 have a bright moon present. The Quadrantids are the only major shower to occur during the dark night of a new moon.

You can expect to see 50-100 meteors per hour during its peak period.

The Quadrantids are a Rather Special Meteor Shower

Unlike the other meteor showers, with the exception of the geminids in December. The Quadrantids originate from an asteroid, not a comet.

All meteor showers have a parent comet or in rare cases such as the Quadrantids and Geminids, an asteroid. The parent comet or asteroid passes through the solar system and sublimates as it gets closer to the sun. This releases dust and gas. When the Earth encounters these streams of dust and gas debris in Space, meteor showers are produced.

The parent body of the Quadrantids is Asteroid 2003 EH1. Discovered in 2003 by astronomer Peter Jenniskens. The astroid takes about 5 and a half years to orbit the sun.

There is also something else unusual about the Quadrantids. Unlike other meteor showers with fairly broad periods of peak activity, some over a day or two. The Quadrantids have a particularly short period of time at their maximum. The peak only lasting a few hours.

And there’s more..

There is also something else that makes this meteor shower stand out from the rest. It’s name.

Meteor showers are named for the constellation they originate from. So the Perseids radiate from the constellation of Perseus and the Leonids from Leo and so on.

The Quadrantids radiate from the constellation of Quadrans Muralis. Ehhh??? There’s no such place!

The International Astronomical Union removed Quadrans Muralis from the list of constellations in the early 20th century. The meteor shower however still retained its old name. The constellation it radiates/ originates from now is Boötes. If you wanted to be pedantic, you could call them the Boötids.

Credit Stellarium

When to see the Quadrantids

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower is active from December 27 to January 10. The peak of the Quadrantids is on the evening of 3/4 January.

Expect to see 50-100 meteors an hour from a dark clear site. On average observers could see around 25- 50 per hour from suburban areas.

Quadrantids produce short but very bright fireballs due to the high radiant. The shower is best for observers in the northern hemisphere.

How to Watch the Quadrantids

As with all meteor showers watching them is fairly straight forward. You need to be warm ,comfortable and patient and allow yourself a minimum of 30 minutes observing time or longer if possible.

There is no particular direction to look as the meteors will appear randomly in any part of the sky. Please read this guide on maximising your chances and how to watch meteor showers.

Good luck, Happy New Year and Happy Meteor Spotting

Further Reading:

Watching Meteors – How to Watch and Observe Meteor Showers

January 2019 Night Sky Guide – What’s Up In January

Lights in the Sky – Have you Seen a UFO Flash or Streak at Night?

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