The Quadrantid meteor shower – the first one in 2016 – peaks on January 4, displaying a fascinating spectacle of shooting stars over Europe and North America.
Observers in the eastern regions of Canada and the United States will be able to see the Quadrantid meteor shower at its maximum force. The meteor shower – which is expected at 3 a.m. EST – falls in the prime hour before dawn.
The name Quadrantid comes from a former constellation known as Quadrans Muralis created in 1795 by the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande. It is now part of Boötes, a constellation in the northern sky. The first shower was discovered in the 1830s by the Adolphe Quetelet of Brussels Observatory.
The radiant of the meteor shower will be situated near the northern horizon for mid-northern observers. It will rise to the northeast by dawn. The best and first meteor shower of 2016 may be observed Monday morning by people all across North America. The Canadian Observer’s Handbook estimated the peak hour at around 3 a.m. EST.
Observers may spot sixty to 120 meteors per hour (provided that the sky is dark), once the meteor shower reaches its greatest activity. Unfortunately, light pollution, also known as luminous pollution or photopollution, may prevent you from spotting the meteors. Before starting a meteor count, people should give their eyes fifteen to twenty minutes to adapt to the dark.
Guy Ottewell, editor of the Astronomical Calendar 2016, said that faint Quadrantids may peak half a day earlier, followed by a second peaks a few hour later.
The meteors in the Quadrantid shower appear at a quarter of their highest rates six hour before their peak and six hour after the main peak.
Peter Jenniskens, an astronomer and a senior research scientist at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) Institute and at NASA Ames Research Center, found an asteroid called 2003 EH1, which, based on its orbit, seemed to be linked with the Quadrantids. The discovery was made in 2003.
Last year, the nearly full moon lit up the sky and ruined the Quadrantid meteor shower. It obscured all the meteors except for the brightest ones. However, this year it will only provide a bit of light, as it will be two days past last quarter. The moon will rise at 2 a.m.
Meteor watching can take quite a long time and is not an easy task especially in really cold weather, but it is totally worth the wait.
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