Quadrantids meteor shower debuts with spectacular show

Composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The meteor shower of the year makes its 2019 debut Thursday night and continues into the early morning hours of Friday,  shooting up to 100 meteors per hour at its peak, while a new moon leaves darker skies as the backdrop, offering those in the Northern Hemisphere some of the best seats on earth.

Sky map depicting point of origin for Quadrantids meteor shower that peaks Thursday night, Jan 3, 2019 | Image courtesy of Date and Time, St. George News

Of the dozen meteor showers that take place every year, there are only three that are capable of producing 100 meteors or more an hour, and the Quadrantid meteor shower is one of them, rivaled only by the Perseids meteor shower in August and December’s Geminids shower.

It is one of the best annual shows in the night sky, according to NASA.

The Quadrantid shower sends bright fireballs from an asteroid designated 2003EH, and will peak Thursday night as Earth moves through the thickest part of the debris field.

The best time to watch these short-lived meteors is just before dawn on Friday, where they can be seen high in the northeastern sky, and without a competing moon at the shower’s peak, the fireballs will be easier to see.

The shower’s point of origin can be found about midway between the handle of the Big Dipper and the four stars that make up Draco, the dragon, and is named after a shapeless star pattern known as the Quadrans Muralis, or the “wall quadrant.”

It is a pattern that can be seen in many 18th- and 19th-century star atlases, even though the stars were scattered among the heavens long ago and the pattern no longer exists, NASA says.

No special equipment is needed to view a meteor shower. Time and Date offers an “Interactive Meteor Shower Sky Map” that includes a visibility conditions to get the most out of the Quandrantids, and provides the following tips to maximize the viewing experience:

  • Find a secluded viewing spot, away from the city lights. Once at the venue, it may take a person’s eyes 15 to 20 minutes to get used to the dark.
  • Dress for the weather, and make sure to be comfortable, especially if planning to stay out long and bring a blanket or a comfortable chair – meteor watching can be a waiting game.
  • Once a viewing spot is chosen, lie down on the ground and look up in the direction of the radiant, using the Interactive “Meteor Shower Sky Map” to find the current direction of the radiant in the sky.

 

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

 

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