Quadrantids – first meteor shower of 2020 debuts with spectacular show

Composite image with background image by Jorde Angjelovik, overlay by Niruti Stock/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utah showcases one of the best seats in the house for viewing the heavens above, with more than 15 international dark sky parks and communities scattered across the state. And these sites will be perfect for watching the first meteor shower of 2020, the Quadrantids, taking place Friday night until its peak early Saturday morning.

Sky map depicting point of origin for Quadrantids meteor shower that peaks Saturday morning | Image courtesy of Date and Time, St. George News

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

Sending bright fireballs across a moonless sky from an asteroid 2003EH, the Quadrantid meteor shower will peak early Saturday morning at 1:20 a.m. as Earth moves through the thickest part of the debris field.

Unlike the Perseid or Geminid meteor showers that peak for a day or more, which allows all time zones around the globe to enjoy the display, the Quadrantids’ peak only lasts for a few hours. The shower’s radiant point is so far north that the best views can be seen from the Northern Hemisphere, and with no competing moon at the shower’s peak this year, 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,” 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. The website Time and Date offers an Interactive Meteor Shower Sky Map that includes a visibility conditions to get the most out of the Quadrantids 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, which is slated to be clear and chilly, 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.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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