2023 Quadrantids meteor shower peaks in a blaze of fire

2023 Quadrantids meteor shower peaks in a blaze of fire

2023 Quadrantids meteor shower peaks in a blaze of fire

The first months of each year have relatively little meteor shower, so the Quadrantids often lure out die-hard star-spotters during the first week. On Tuesday night and Wednesday night they delivered the show some skywatchers were hoping for.

While December is packed with opportunities to catch abundant Geminid and Ursid meteors, the Quadrantid meteor shower is the only major downpour in the first quarter of the year, peaking briefly on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning this week.

Like the Geminids and Ursids, the Quadrantids are often among the strongest showers of the year, but these meteors don’t get nearly as much hype as the northern August Perseids that hit during the summer break for many skywatchers. Also, the chance of seeing Quadrantids is very slim, with a peak of intense activity lasting just six hours this year, according to the American Meteor Association.

Other showers may have peaks lasting a day or two, with a lesser but still decent amount of activity extending to days before and after the actual peak.

To capture the Quadrantids, there are two factors to consider: what time the storm peaks at a given location, and how high up in the quadrant of the night sky the Quadrantid meteors appear to be coming from at that time.

Predicting the exact time of peak activity for a meteor shower is no guarantee, but the target range for the best viewing times this year was between 3:40 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. UTC on January 4 (7:40 p.m. to 10:40 p.m.). pm PT on Tuesday). That said, the region of the sky where Quadrantids radiate outward is in the region of the constellation Bootes the Shepherd, and this radiant was highest in the sky between about 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time.

Where these two windows overlap in the Northern Hemisphere, you have the best places on Earth to observe the Quadrantids. This week it seemed to be just about any place in or near the North Atlantic.

Forecasts called for about 25 Quadrantids per hour under ideal conditions, including many fleeting shooting stars and a few fireballs. A lucky outburst of Quadrantids producing up to 120 meteors per hour was also possible, according to some predictions.

By Wednesday evening International Radio Meteor Observation Project already reported detections of up to 120 meteors per hour, though it’s unlikely anyone got to see them all with the naked eye, largely thanks to the moon, which was 92% full last night.

What you actually see when a Quadrantid meteor shoots through the sky is a piece of a splinter or pebble Asteroid 2003 EH1, which some astronomers believe to be an extinct comet or a new type of object sometimes called a “rock comet.” Over the centuries, EH1 has left a trail of debris in its path, and our planet passes through that stream of debris every January.

If you missed it, mark your calendar for the next big meteor shower, which unfortunately won’t happen until the Lyrids become active in late April.

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