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The Quadrantid meteor shower 2012 - peaks Jan 3/4

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posted on Dec, 28 2011 @ 12:01 AM
The peak of next year's first major annual meteor shower, the Quadrandid meteor shower, is a little over a week away. It's not the best known of the annual meteor showers (perhaps due to the time of year), but it is one of the strongest and most reliable meteor showers of the year, and in a good year, at the peak of the shower, up to 200 Quadrantids per hour are possible. More usually visual rates are around the 100 per hour mark at peak.

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 (known as the "radiant") 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. Any meteor seen traveling directly away from the Quadrantid radiant, even if it was not close to the radiant when it became visible, is a good candidate for a Quadrantid.

The peak is at 07h20m UT on January 4, which should give both Europe and North America chances to see meteors either side of the peak.

Unfortunately the shower can not be observed in the Southern hemisphere since the shower radiant is well below the horizon for observers in the Southern hemisphere.

For observers in the tropics, you might not be able to see as many, but it is worth looking for them since they will be much longer than normal Quadrantid meteors and are often spectacular. "Earth grazers" as they are called, are meteoroids that only graze the edge of our atmosphere at a low angle, so they tend to survive longer. They can only be seen when the shower radiant is on or very close to the horizon, which is the case in the tropics for a good part of the night.

The further North you head the higher the radiant will be in the sky, and this also translates into more meteors, but you should prepare well for the cold. You'll want at least one sleeping bag, and lots of layers of warm cloths.

The trick with observing meteor showers is patience and planning ahead. If you want to stand a chance of seeing something impressive, plan to stay out under the stars for at least an hour or two - the whole night would be better. Since you won't be moving around much, you will quickly get cold under a clear sky at this time of year, so make sure to layer up well.

It also helps a lot to find a good location to observe from. The best observing sites are well away from sources of artificial light pollution, and have good all round views with few obstacles blocking your view of the horizon. Your choice of site can greatly influence how many meteors you see while observing. See below for tips on how to observe meteors properly.

Unless you can't avoid it, it's not good to try and observe from suburbs/city/town locations, but you will still likely see some of the brighter meteors.

The Moon will be a problem during the evening hours of the 3rd, but things will improve after midnight, and the moon will set at around 4am local time for observers at mid-northern latitudes, giving about three hours of moon free observing. That will be good timing for observers in West of Europe and the UK to catch the build up to the peak.

Of course the weather at this time of year can be less than cooperative, so a little good luck never goes amiss.

Good luck

Related Links

2012 predictions
From the IMO
Jeremie Vaubaillon IMCCE

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 28-12-2011 by C.H.U.D. because: clarification/typos

posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 05:43 PM
Here's an article from Sky & Telescope

Quadrantid Meteors Set to Perform on January 4th

Celestially speaking, 2012 opens with a bang. The Quadrantid meteor shower, one of the best displays of "shooting stars" all year, will peak in the hours before dawn this Wednesday, January 4th. If you get up early, bundle up warmly, and find dark site with a wide-open view of the clear sky, you might see 1 or 2 meteors per minute during the shower's brief but intense performance.

This year the Quadrantids are predicted to climax at 2 or 3 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on the morning of January 4th, and this timing offers very good circumstances for North Americans — especially those in the East. On that morning the waxing gibbous Moon sets about 3 a.m. local time (wherever you are), leaving the sky fully dark until dawn begins before or near 6 a.m.

Veteran skywatchers know that the "Quads" rival August's better-known Perseids as an impressive meteor shower — but not many people have ever seen even one of them flashing across the sky. The Quadrantids have two problems, explains Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine. First, the shower is brief. Peak activity usually lasts just a few hours, and if that brief interval doesn’t fall between midnight and dawn for your part of the world, you lose out. The second problem is that you have to be watching the sky in the night’s coldest hours during the year’s coldest time. Continued at the link below...

Sky & Telescope

One thing I'd like to add, just in case anyone who is reading this is unaware:-

You don't need anything else apart from glasses (if you wear them) to observe meteors. Just lay down flat and look straight up, or slightly away from straight up if there is a distractingly bright light source (eg the moon) in your field of view.

You can also try to position yourself so that there is something (eg building or tree) between the moon and you, although in general it's recommended to get away from big obstacles that block out the sky, but in this case it can help.

posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 06:04 PM
Put your digital camera on a tripod, with a remote switch, in the manner CHUD explained, and you can get footage or frames of shooting stars, (meteors).

If you have a clear sky away from city light pollution.

Myself I've only seen the moon once in the last two weeks (it was daytime). Its raining tonight, with lightning earlier during the day.

posted on Dec, 31 2011 @ 05:42 PM
reply to post by Illustronic

Good advice

Video cameras can work well too.

I would also add, if you do want to try and catch one, point your camera away from the radiant (in the North), and any Quadrantid meteor trails you do catch will tend to be longer ("fill the frame" better). 45 degrees away (ie either East or West) works well.

If you can manually focus, use the moon.

Batteries will run out quickly in the cold, so keep a spare battery or two close to your body (an inside pocket) where it will be warm, until you need it. Better yet, use an AC adapter if you have one, or if you have access to a power point or a DC>AC inverter + 12v battery/power pack, that can also work well.

Your lens may get dew/condensation on it after a while. It can be a real problem at this time of year. One way to combat it is to use a small hairdryer to blow warm air on the lens/camera every so often, but it's probably better to buy a small chemical "hand-warmer", and tape it just under the lens.

Be careful if you bring the camera indoors, as it will be cold, and in the warm humid indoor environment it will very quickly be dripping with condensation. Instead, while you are outside, put it in an air tight bag or container and then bring it indoors. You'll need to wait a while till the camera has warmed up enough before you can take it out of your bag/container, depending on the size of the camera, so remove any memory cards/media before hand. A small point and shoot should be safe after around 45 minutes, perhaps less. A larger camera may take an hour or two.

I'll also be trying to photograph Quadrantids. Hopefully the weather will cooperate, but the forecast is not looking too promising right now.

posted on Jan, 2 2012 @ 04:39 PM
The International Meteor Organization have now set up a page to monitor the rate if incoming Quadrantid meteoroids in the form of a "Live ZHR graph". There is no data as yet, but it should start coming in over the next few hours as we get closer to the peak.

The page can be found here.

The forecast is for strong winds/gales here, so I'm probably going to bow out of it this time. I hope other ATSers have better luck

posted on Jan, 3 2012 @ 04:31 PM
I saw a large red/orange meteor a few hours ago (in the UK) went from north to south (ish). I wondered wether or not there was a meteor shower due, and it's going to peak whilst I'm walking the dogs in the morning. so all is good
(it'll take my mind off the pain for a bit atleast)

posted on Jan, 3 2012 @ 07:47 PM
I caught a glimpse of a bright flash in the sky about 45 minutes ago. It seems to be a perfect night for viewing down here in the South. The skies are crystal clear and the stars are bright. The only problem is it's in the 20s. I want to go watch but it's freezing outside!

posted on Jan, 10 2012 @ 06:14 PM
Apologies for the late replies, but due to Quadrantids not happening for me, and having a busy schedule at the moment, I had to go away for a few days.

Not a bad peak this year, but not a great year either judging from IMO's ZHR graph. It looks like there were actually 3 separate sub-peaks this year, the first (ZHR ~75) of which almost coincided with the predicted peak (@ 07:20 UT), and peaks at around 11:00 UT (ZHR ~70) and 18:00 UT (ZHR ~85). So the result was that the overall peak was a bit more drawn out than the more usual sharp peak.

Interestingly, the predictions for peaks in next few years look like they could be significantly stronger than this years, if you compare the graphical representations from Jeremie Vaubaillon. So if you didn't catch any this year, next year and for a few years after it we should be treated to some good displays.

Originally posted by Acidtastic
I saw a large red/orange meteor a few hours ago (in the UK) went from north to south (ish). I wondered wether or not there was a meteor shower due, and it's going to peak whilst I'm walking the dogs in the morning. so all is good
(it'll take my mind off the pain for a bit atleast)

If it came from the North then there's a fair chance it was a Quadrantid, but there is always a chance it was just a random meteor. Where the meteor is heading from (rather than where it's heading to, although this also gives clues) is the main characteristic used to determine if a meteor belongs to a particular shower or not.

Originally posted by Charizard
I caught a glimpse of a bright flash in the sky about 45 minutes ago. It seems to be a perfect night for viewing down here in the South. The skies are crystal clear and the stars are bright. The only problem is it's in the 20s. I want to go watch but it's freezing outside!

It's always difficult to say for sure with flashes. Some satellites/junk in orbit can produce surprisingly bright flashes, then go back to being invisible or near invisible, but the Quadrantids are also a likely possibility. Hope you got out to take another look, even if it was cold!

edit on 10-1-2012 by C.H.U.D. because: clarification

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