Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Quadrantids Meteor Shower Tonight

I've been getting hits from people googling 'meteor shower tonight.'   They get to an old meteor shower post, so I thought I should check out what's happening.

From ABC News:
If you're up early Wednesday morning and the weather is promising, bundle up and go outside. The Quadrantid meteor shower, the first of 2012, should be at its best between 3 a.m. and dawn, Eastern time. If you get lucky, you may get a silently satisfying sky show.
Screenshot from Space.com
FOR ALASKANS that means 11 pm.  One site says it ends at about 7 because of dawn.  So it might last longer here.  The sky is clear out now (7:30pm).  But it's nippy (-4˚F). 

 Space.com has more, including this:

While the plus side of this annual shower is its ability to produce fireballs, and its high hourly rates, the downside is its short peak. Quadrantids has an extremely narrow peak, occurring over just a few short hours. The Quadrantids are also well known for producing fireballs, meteors that are exceptionally bright. These meteors can also, at times, generate persistent trails (also identified as trains).
Those living in the northern hemisphere have an opportunity to experience a much better view of the Quadrantids, as the constellation Boötes never makes it above the horizon in the southern hemisphere. This is great for those living in North America, much of Europe, and the majority of Asia.

The Christian Science Monitor has a long article.  Here are some excerpts:

The Quadrantids (pronounced KWA-dran-tids) provides one of the most intense annual meteor showers, with a brief, sharp maximum lasting but a few hours. Adolphe Quetelet of Brussels Observatory discovered the shower in the 1830s, and shortly afterward it was noted by several other astronomers in Europe and America.
The meteors are named after the obsolete constellation Quadrans Muralis the Mural or Wall Quadrant (an astronomical instrument), depicted in some 19th-century star atlases roughly midway between the end of the Handle of the Big Dipper and the quadrilateral of stars marking the head of the constellation Draco. The International Astronomical Union phased out Quadrans Muralis in 1922.  .  .
. . . Observers located in the western portions of North American will have lower rates but will also have the opportunity to see Quadrantid 'earthgrazers,'" Lunsford added. "Earthgrazers are meteors that skim the upper portion of the atmosphere therefore lasting much longer than normal and producing long trails in the sky. These meteors can only be seen when the radiant lies close to the horizon. As the radiant rises, the meteor paths will become shorter with shorter durations."

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