The first meteor shower for the New Year – Quadrantid arrives this weekend – and this is the recommended way to watch it.
This weekend avid skywatchers will be treated to the Quadrantid meteor shower although it is a bit tricky to watch this celestial treat. But, for the die-hard fans, the effort is worth the trouble, particularly with the mysterious “disappeared constellation”.
The Quadrantids is also the first among meteor showers for the year. Though a bit unusual, this particular meteor shower is not on account of debris from an ordinary comet burning in the atmosphere. On the other hand, this interstellar debris we see during this meteor shower originates from a relatively new and mysterious objected 2003 EHI that was newly discovered.
The existence of 2203 EHI was described in different ways as a dead comet, minor planet, or an asteroid. But, on the Christmas Eve of 2003 astronomers finally confirmed it after catching a glimpse. What we now see burning up in the form meteors is pieces from this rocky body.
The unusual source also means certain things for the meteors. Compared to the standard meteoroids, they are somewhat sturdier and, therefore, are likely to burn brighter with longer trails. This year is likely to witness about 80 meteors every hour at a cozy speed of about 25 miles per second.
Given this background, you would perhaps expect the Quadrantids to be the leading meteor shower for the year – and of course, it is a great show if you can catch it. But, compared to Perseids or Geminids this event is relatively obscure. This is so since the Quadrantids even while being spectacular can be among the hardest meteor showers in a year to be spotted. For most meteor showers, the peak activity lasts about a couple of days. The Quadrantids, on the other hand, will have a peak activity time of just a few hours. For those who miss the small window, the waiting is long until next year. Thus, time is the major driver for the activity.
The Quadrantid will start on the night of Sunday, the third January and extend to the early hours of Monday morning, the 4th of January. The peak will be reached just around three a.m. and continue right until the day break.
The short time frame will also mean that you need to be more precise than usual since there will be no room for error. If the clouds or cold hinder your effort, you can turn to the Canary Islands to watch the show.