Qudrantids Meteor Shower


Not celebrated your new year till now? Now celebrate your new year with Quadrantids meteor shower.

The Quadrantids meteor shower is the first meteor of 2017. Although the Moon is in waxing phase, it won’t interfere with the shower.

But there is a problem. In general like Perseids or Geminids meteor shower, peak lasts for few days. But in case of Quadrantids the peak lasts only for few hours. So in short you have to be on the right part of Earth – preferably with the radiant high in your sky – in order to experience the peak of the Quadrantids.

Peak dates for the Quadrantids shower 2017
When it comes to providing information about peak of a meteor shower, different sources give different answers. But according to International Meteor Organization and The Society for popular Astronomy the peak for Quadrantids meteor shower is January 3 at 07.30 pm (IST). Always remember that all the information is just prediction.

Although the peak is 07.30 pm for India but if you want to see this shower then the best time would be early morning of January 4th before sunrise.

But predictions aren’t always accurate, so from any northerly latitudes, try watching in the dark hours before dawn on January 3 and/or 4.

So you see … this shower is a gamble!

Where is the Quadrantids’s radiant point?
When we are observing a meteor shower it always comes in mind that when can we see maximum number of meteors? Answer for this is quite simple. You are likely to see the most meteors when the radiant is high in the sky. In case of Quadrintids Meteor Shower, the radiant point is seen highest in the sky in the dark hours before dawn.

meteor-shower

The radiant point of the Quadrantids shower makes an approximate right angle with the Big Dipper and the bright star Arcturus. If you trace the paths of the Quadrantids meteors backward, they appear to radiate from this point on the starry sky.

But if you are a casual observer then you don’t need to find the meteor shower radiant to see the Quadrantids meteors.

The meteors will radiate from the northern sky, but appear in all parts of the sky.

Where is Quadrantids’s constellation?
Most meteor showers are named for the constellations from which they appear to radiate. So the question comes in mind where is the constellation to which Quadrantids’s meteor shower belongs? The answer to this is that there was a constellation named as Quadrans Muralis (Mural Quadrants) which no longer exists. This is an obsolete constellation which was located between the constellations of Bootes the Herdsman and Draco the Dragon. Then the question comes where did it go?

To understand the history of the Quadrantids’ name, we have to go back to the earliest observations of this shower. In early January 1825, Antonio Brucalassi in Italy reported that:

“The atmosphere was traversed by a multitude of the luminous bodies known by the name of falling stars.”

They appeared to radiate from Quadrans Muralis. In 1839, Adolphe Quetelet of Brussels Observatory in Belgium and Edward C. Herrick in Connecticut independently made the suggestion that the Quadrantids are an annual shower.

But, in 1922, the International Astronomical Union presented a list of 88 modern constellations. The list was agreed upon by the International Astronomical Union at its inaugural General Assembly held in Rome in May 1922. It did not include constellation Quadrans Muralis.

Today, this meteor shower retains the name Quadrantids, for the original and now obsolete constellation Quadrans.

Currently the radiant point of Quadrantids is at the northern tip of Bootes, near the Big Dipper asterism in our sky, not far from Arcturus which is the brightest star of the constellation Bootes.

Parent of Quadrantids meteor shower
In 2003, astronomer Peter Jenniskens tentatively identified the parent body of the Quadrantids as the asteroid 2003 EH1. It means its sources came from a rocky body, not from an icy comet like as like Geminids has. Strange!!!
But some say that this shower is due to the remaining of the comet C/1490 Y1 which was observed by Chinese, Japanese and Korean Astronomers 500 years ago. So basically, which is the parent object of Quadrantids, is still a mystery.


Somya Ranjan Senapati,
SPACE | Educator

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