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The Quadrantids meteor shower 2010 - peaks Jan 3/4

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posted on Dec, 30 2009 @ 08:23 AM
The annual Quadrantids meteor shower, although not one of the well known meteor showers (at least as far as the general public is concerned), is the most active meteor shower that has dependably high rates from year to year that we know of, along with the Geminid meteor shower which peaked earlier on in December. Both showers are capable of producing around 120 meteors per hour at peak in an average year.

Because of the timing (winter!) and it being a Northern hemisphere only shower, the Quadrantids don't get much attention, and can be quite hard to observe due to the nature of the weather in the Northern hemisphere at this time of year, but it is possible to observe this shower and stay reasonably comfortable as long as you plan well, and have a good sleeping bag (or two!) plus plenty of layers of warm cloths.

The one thing you don't want is for the rates to start getting really high (which they invariably do), just as you are starting to get cold, which is a real possibility if you underestimate how cold it will get under clear skies at this time of year, if you are fortunate enough to have them that is!

According to the IMO this year's shower is predicted to peak at 1900 UT on the 3rd of January, although what time you see the highest rate at your observing location depends on a combination of factors.

Unfortunately the predicted peak will occur with a bright moon in the sky over western Europe, and in the USA it will still be light. However, the moon will set well before midnight local time whatever your location, and rates will climb as the radiant rises higher in the sky, so don't be put off observing if you don't see much at first. (Update! Please see my post below!)

The IMO also predicts that:

a possible short-lived, quite strong, peak from the shower may
happen instead sometime between roughly 12h to 16h UT on January 3

The Quadrantids enter Earth's atmosphere at a velocity of 41 km/s, which is neither fast nor slow, but about average for natural meteors. They appear to travel away (or "radiate") from a small area of sky that is close to the celestial north pole, and just under the "Big Dipper".

Click here for a diagram showing the location of the radiant during the Quadrantids peak.

Remember, not all meteor you will see will be Quadrantids, but by paying careful attention to the direction of travel, you should be able to tell which meteors are likely to be in most cases.

Good luck, and clear skies!

Related Links

2010 predictions
IMO (PDF format)
North American Meteor Network

Quadrantid shower info, history, and observations
Previous year's ZHR graphs

Basic visual meteor shower observation techniques
How to Observe Meteor Showers
How to View Meteor Showers - How to "See More Meteors"

This great video covers almost everything, but I would argue on a few points that were mentioned:

1. It's usually better to be totally flat when observing meteors since you can catch meteors close to any horizon with your peripheral vision when facing directly upwards.

2. If you live in a warm/tropical climate, you might get away with a blanket (or even less) to keep you warm, but I'd advise putting on multiple layers of warm cloths, and jumping into a sleeping bag if you want to observe for any length of time if you live away from the equator. If you are too warm (unlikely in most cases) then you can always remove a layer of cloths or two.

3. The camera exposure times he mentioned could be at the upper end of the scale if you have any light pollution at you're site and/or depending on your equipment/settings/how you want your photo to appear. It's worth experimenting before hand, but if you are using fast lenses/high ISOs (which you should be if you want to catch any meteors, although you may get lucky and catch a bright meteor anyway), exposures can be as short as 5 or 10 seconds. See links below for more info.

Advanced visual meteor shower observation techniques

Photographing meteors

General information

Organizations and mailing lists

[edit on 30-12-2009 by C.H.U.D.]

[edit on 30-12-2009 by C.H.U.D.]

posted on Dec, 30 2009 @ 10:09 AM

Apologies, but I forgot to set the year to "2010" in my planetarium software, so I have got the Moon rise/set times wrong!

Contrary to what I said in my post above, the Moon will rise at around 2000 local time on the 3rd. This means that most of this year's Quadrantids shower will be washed out by bright moonlight, and observed rates will be reduced consequently.

The shower might still be worth observing despite this if there are many bright Quadrantids this year. There is no way to tell except for going out there and actually observing.

posted on Jan, 3 2010 @ 01:44 PM
A meteor i think,exploded right above my head an hour ago.
I have only ever seen streaks before as most peak nights i am clouded out.
Definitely a first for me.It was like a full beam headlight that faded to black.Brilliant.

posted on Jan, 4 2010 @ 01:11 AM
reply to post by tracey ace

Great to hear you got to see something at last tracey. You may have been one of the few people that got to see any Quads this year, so kudos to you for going out there despite the cold and getting your hands dirty

I would have liked to, but I'm coming down with a cold right now, which always wipes me out and renders me incapable of doing anything that requires any effort at all.

Exploding meteors are usually pretty distinctive, and you usually know when you see one, because they just tend to get brighter like a normal meteor, but just when you'd expect a normal meteor to "burn out", an exploding meteor suddenly brightens many times. It looks just like a flash-bulb going off in many cases. Sometimes you get multiple mini-explosions (or "flares") along the meteor's path, but just to see a single explosion can be pretty impressive.

Here is a classic example I dug out and uploaded to a file hosting site of a spectacular exploding Leonid from the 98 fireball display the Leonids put on that year, and a shower that I also had the good fortune to observe.

Going back to this year's Quadrantids, did anyone else catch any? I have not seen any other reports apart from tracey's report above so far, so there is no way to tell if this year's predictions were accurate or not, but I'll post any updates as and when I come across them

posted on Jan, 4 2010 @ 09:26 AM
I was lucky to see it as i wouldn`t have braved the weather this time.I am recovering from a cold too.Some of the places ideal for viewing had some pretty low temps close by,minus 16 i heard.
I had just got off a bus and noticed the space station,if it wasn`t for me spotting that i wouldn`t have looked up.
I tried to spot any constellations nearby but streetlights hindered.It was approx 6:30 pm when it occured.
About 7:30 i had a look outside but my eyes had given up.Everything looked pixelated

I really want to go looking through some snow covered fields in the hope of actually finding one that made it all the way.Maybe tomorrow.

posted on Jan, 4 2010 @ 05:56 PM
reply to post by tracey ace

Well the main thing is that you kept your eyes open. I couldn't really hold it against anyone for wanting to be inside when it's that cold out. So far I've only seen one other report (from New Mexico, USA), and nothing unusual activity wise was noted in the pre-peak hours.

It may well be that no one else managed to observe the Quads this year, at least during the predicted peak anyway, although I have not yet checked all sources, and there was lots of clear sky around this year.

I hate to be a kill-joy, but the chances of you finding something from a random search, in snow covered terrain are virtually nil, and that's before you take into account that cometary material like that which a Quadrantid is composed of, is so fragile (think cigarette ash) and traveling at such high velocity, that the chances of anything surviving are remote unless the meteoroid is really huge (city block sized perhaps).

Don't forget, annual meteor showers, which are usually cometary in origin have never been connected to a recovered meteorite, and as far as we know all material of cometary origin is completely vaporised high up in the atmosphere.

This FAQ has some good info on the subject.

Believe it or not, you stand a better chance of finding meteorites in the guttering of your house, or some other place where they can collect, like a child's paddling pool for example. You can just use a magnet to collect them, but they will be very small usually!

Being interested in meterology, astronomy and microscopy, I put the three together a couple of years ago and began collecting (that's a stuffy word for "trying to find") micromets. Collecting is simple –– once you locate a good catchment spot. Quite a few locations can qualify: a child's plastic swimming pool, horse troughs, large open drums or buckets, large plastic sheet left in the open...anywhere rain water, snow or ice melt can pool. Even water filled road ruts likely contain these tiny space visitors. Some have even left microscope slides, flat or wells, under the open sky and have succeeded in capturing them.

For my collecting, I found the roof and guttering system of my house was the best location. Rain and melting snow (possibly containing micromets) scour loose particles (some will be micromets) off the roof and funnel them into the guttering where the water and debris will pool in one or more 8 to 20 liter-size plastic buckets placed at the end of the drain spouts. Following a generous rain, a significant quantity of water along with dirt, wood, leaves, insects and other items will be in the bucket(s). [I use two 20 liter (5 gallon U.S.) buckets at two different spouts.]


amount of meteors hitting earth:

* 200 tons per day

* 100 billion cosmic dust sized particles enter the atmosphere each day.

* 25 million grain of sand size enter

* annually, 24,000 small pea size to fist sized meteors that reach the earths surface totals about 10 tonnes of which 3.33 tonnes land on land. This gives a bombardment rate of 40 meteorites per square km of land surface per year over a period of a million years. That's a lot of space junk just lying around waiting to be picked up - check your roof guttering with a magnet.

* 500 kg or less of meteors are found each year

Source: Astronomical Society of Victoria

Looking on to the future, perhaps now is a good time to start planning for next year (which is looking much better in terms of Moon light), and to sort yourself out with a good cold weather sleeping bag. I need one too, so I've been looking into it. I would recommend down rather than synthetic since they are supposed to be better for extreme cold, and because you are not in a tent, you will want one that is good for at least 5-10 degrees less than the temperatures you might expect.

I'm looking for one that is good to about -25 or perhaps even -30, which should just about be enough for any conditions/locations in the UK during winter I think, but it might be a bit too warm for showers like the Leonids.

Good bags that go down that low are quite expensive from what I have seen, but they should last for many years, so I would say getting a good bag would be a great investment for someone who wants to observe the winter showers in comfort.

Apart from next year's Quadrantids, many of this years major annual showers are also looking quite promising in terms of Moonlight interference. The Moon is completely out of the way for the Perseids, although the Geminids and the Leonids will be clear from moonlight by midnight onwards on the peak nights.

posted on Jan, 4 2010 @ 06:58 PM
reply to post by C.H.U.D.

Thanks for the info,i never realised the many ways that they could be found,and so simple too.
Just found some info on a local astronomical society website but no pictures yet if there are any.They do have an upcoming meeting though.
Gone through the links also and can only find info on the recent partial moon eclipse.It would be a shame if nobody else was watching,could not blame them in the slightest though but for a chance sighting it impressed me.
Makes one wonder what could have been missed.

posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 04:59 PM
reply to post by tracey ace

Glad to hear the suggestions I made perked your interest. I've been meaning to give it a try sometime too. Let us know if you have any luck. I have to admit though, what I'd really like to do is go to a desert (or ice cap) and try my luck looking for decent sized meteorites... one day perhaps!

There were a few reports of observers being clouded out elsewhere here in Europe, but apart from that nothing so far. Unfortunately, there are not too many people who contribute to visual meteor observing, and winter showers like the Quads often don't get the attention they deserve, which means progress is slowed down in the field.

Makes one wonder what could have been missed.

I agree - we may never know, or at least have the complete picture.

We'd probably know from radio/radar monitoring if anything very unusual was happening, but visual data gives us a different part of the picture.

Take that thought of yours and extend it one step further... That was one night (not even that - perhaps a minute of looking at the sky?), and we have perhaps 50 reasonably active meteor showers over the course of a year (something like 100 known showers and new ones being discovered every year).

Virtually no one bothers to observe for meteors except around major shower peaks, so lots of events go completely unnoticed. Thankfully all-sky-camera networks (not to mention radar/radio) fill in some of the gaps, and catch some of the really big events. Even so lots gets missed due to cloud or daylight.

What you saw was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg

posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 05:52 PM
Someone on ATS posted this link.Cant remember who though.
Flower mound observatory

Wish i could make something like that homemade scope to take photos.
I think that its great.
I have a falling to pieces Tasco lol.I cant set it up,i end up shouting at it when i`m trying to look at something as it drops down a centimetre if you are not careful.
I would have loved to get a pic of that meteor,i have over the years seen things whizzing by sometimes with noises and i dont know if they were on peak nights or random meteorites but they are not far from ground when i have seen them.

[edit on 5-1-2010 by tracey ace]

posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 10:23 PM
reply to post by tracey ace

Thanks for the link. Interesting! I still haven't been tempted into getting myself a scope yet. If I do it'll be one optimized for photography probably.

If you want to get a shot of a meteor, that last thing you want is a telescope. They have such narrow fields of view, that it makes them very poor tools for catching meteors.

Instead, what you want is an SLR or a DSLR camera with a FAST wide to normal angle lens, and a tripod + cable release.

Choosing the right camera and lens is important, but it is possible to catch meteors with less desirable combinations if you already have something to hand you can use.

Although given a reasonably good camera and lens you will usually catch meteors on a peak night without much problem, getting a good shot of one is quite difficult, and requires a fair bit of luck!

Unless you live out in the middle of nowhere, your biggest problem will probably be light pollution, which can severely limit your exposure time, and if you are not careful it can mess up good exposures. It helps allot if you can get away from lights.

There is a whole host of other things that can make getting a worthy photograph of a meteor extremely trying at times, but as they say, nothing worth doing is ever easy.

The other alternative is a video/CCTV/all-sky camera, that you could leave running in the hope of catching a nice fireball. If you get lucky, and catch one, your footage could help lead to a meteorite find.

I have only used still cameras myself so far, but if you want to peruse it further I'll be more than happy to help you to get the shot you are after.

i have over the years seen things whizzing by sometimes with noises and i dont know if they were on peak nights or random meteorites but they are not far from ground when i have seen them.

It would be hard to say for sure even if you knew the dates to be honest. They can certainly sometimes give the appearance of being close to the ground if yous see a meteor "low down" on the horizon, but since Earth's surface is curved, what appears to be at low altitude is more than likely many tens of miles above the ground. It's actually a common error that people make all the time.

This diagram should help you understand what is going on.

Sounds can sometimes accompany meteors, but it's rare, so you are lucky to have experienced it. The one time I heard them, it sounded a bit like the sound you hear when you put a steak in a hot frying pan. Is that what you heard too?

posted on Jan, 6 2010 @ 01:18 PM
Yes,it was a fssssssss kind of noise.Two of them,this was about 8 years ago.
I have been trying many cameras but in the cold they have issues.I think i should bin the ones i have got,cheap digital things that they are.I would presume a camera that takes a roll of film would be better for me.

The sky cam sounds interesting too,i have tried this before but it takes up all my hard drive space.An hour took up about 5 gb.
What type of cam would be good for that purpose if i was to try it again?The ones that i did try needed some form of light to work which defeats the purpose.I will say cost is an issue at the moment but i need a healthy distraction lol.
In fact the noise was a fssssssst.The t i added as it sounded like that when the noise stopped.Apologies if my explanation doesn`t make much sense.

[edit on 6-1-2010 by tracey ace]

posted on Jan, 7 2010 @ 07:26 PM
reply to post by tracey ace

Yes,it was a fssssssss kind of noise.Two of them,this was about 8 years ago.

I think I remember you mentioning it/them before. Were the two on different occasions?

I have been trying many cameras but in the cold they have issues.I think i should bin the ones i have got,cheap digital things that they are.

It may just be the batteries perhaps? In any case, little digicams are not the best for this type of photography.

I would presume a camera that takes a roll of film would be better for me.

It's actually something I was going to suggest since using a 35mm film camera can have some advantages over a DSLR. For starters, they can be bought quite cheap second hand. Also they don't (in some cases anyway) require power to run, or very little, if you choose the right camera.

The other big advantage is that film is less sensitive to light pollution over time than a digital sensor, so you can usually shoot for a bit longer with film where as a DSLR exposure would start "fog up" long before.

One other advantage is that a 35mm SLR uses up the entire image circle of a 35mm lens, where as only the very expensive "full frame" DSLR sensors use the entire image circle. That means you get a wider field of view.

Film SLRs also have disadvantages, like cost and finding somewhere to process the film. Then you need to scan it if you want it on your PC. Digital is much more hassle free in these respects.

There are some interesting options if you decide to go the 35mm route, like this way of connecting and automating multiple cameras. Perhaps this link will work - you have to copy and paste each part into your browser:

The sky cam sounds interesting too,i have tried this before but it takes up all my hard drive space.An hour took up about 5 gb.

Hard drives are pretty cheap these days. Time for an upgrade perhaps?

What type of cam would be good for that purpose if i was to try it again?The ones that i did try needed some form of light to work which defeats the purpose.I will say cost is an issue at the moment but i need a healthy distraction lol.

I think there are CCTV cams that have a "night" or "low light" mode you could use that are not super expensive. The sensitivity is the main specification you are interested in, but you also want one with a wide angle lens. As long as it can pick up some stars it should be good enough.

If you can afford it a good image intensifier would be the best option. These would be the ones I would go for, and you can buy them in various grades, depending on your pocket. They have some interesting kit on their website too.

The only issue with something like that is you'd have to build a weatherproof housing, but if you were just running it on peak nights you could keep it indoors the rest of the time. You also need to attach a camcorder and save the output from that.

In fact the noise was a fssssssst.The t i added as it sounded like that when the noise stopped.Apologies if my explanation doesn`t make much sense.

It makes perfect sense. Thanks for sharing. It's always fascinating to hear of similar experiences to my own.

[edit on 7-1-2010 by C.H.U.D.]

posted on Jan, 8 2010 @ 05:19 PM
reply to post by C.H.U.D.

The two that i saw were on the same occasion.
I saw the first,in fact i heard the first one,looked up and saw it being closely followed by the next.
I checked out our local astronomical society and found out that a meteorite landed very close many moons ago,they have recently been unearthing the area in the hope of finding it.
A local land owner paid for it as his grandfather had recalled one coming down.I like the local info.But cannot find out why the Meteor centre is so called.Maybe its related.
Thanks for the links,i do like the look of the image intensifier but i think i will be on the hunt for one of those canon cameras.

posted on Jan, 8 2010 @ 10:01 PM
reply to post by tracey ace

It sounds like you saw two pieces of the same object that had probably quite recently broken apart.

I wonder if your local astronomy society realize that it's quite common for people to think that they saw something land close by. It would not be the first time I have come across an astronomer that made the same mistake.

A quick look on ebay shows you should be able to find one of those Canons for less than £10 in good working order and including postage. A lens might cost the same. If you go for that camera, make sure you get the "FD" mount lens for it. A 50mm F1:1.4 would be the best bet if you don't want to spend much - try and get one with "SSC" coatings. There are also faster F1:1.2 50mm lenses out there, but stay away from these unless you find one of the "L" series which are much sharper when used wide open.

Don't feel you need to only buy those Canons... they are only handy if you buy a bunch of them and have them connected together.

Any old 35mm film camera that is completely manual (no batteries apart from perhaps a button cell in some cases), with a "bulb" or "T" setting should be suitable from the likes of Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta. The more cameras you can run, the better your chance of catching something.

Your local astronomy society might also be able to help you find suitable cameras, and give you advice, but for meteors, in terms of lenses, anywhere from about 50mm and down is useful, with faster lenses (at least F1:2.8) preferred over slower (providing you don't mind less than perfect looking stars).

If you don't already have one, you might like to also get a tripod. Apart from that I can't think of any more specific advice I can offer, but if you think of any more questions, feel free to pick my brain.

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