Star-watchers will be able to catch a glimpse of this weekend’s quadruple meteor showers, which are illuminating the sky with up to 200 bright stars every hour.
The annual meteor shower runs every year between December 28 and January 12, but in 2021 the best views in the UK will be after dark on January 2 and 3.
Tetrahedron meteors are known to produce between 50 and 200 meteors per hour on a clear night, and NASA has described them as one of the best annual meteor showers.
Meteors are pieces of rocky debris that enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 40 miles per second, leaving streaks of light that we refer to as “falling stars.”
A quadruple in the Great Hengan Mountains in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, January 4, 2019
Quadrantides are particularly famous for bright “fireball” meteors that leave large bursts of light and color that last longer than average meteorite lines.
This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of matter, according to NASA.
Most meteor showers have a peak of two days, but the Quadrantids have a “peak” window of only six hours.
“The reason for the short peak is due to the gentle flow of particles in the shower and the fact that the Earth crosses the current at a perpendicular angle,” NASA says.
The Quadrantide is best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere because its point of radiance – the point from which the meteor appears to have originated – is farther north on the dome of the sky.
The easiest way to find a shower is to search north for the Big Dipper. Then follow the “arc” of the Big Dipper’s handle across the sky to the red giant star Arcturus – this anchors the bottom of the Bootes constellation, where a meteor shower will appear.
A meteor piercing the stars during the annual quadruple meteor showers in Qingdao, Shandong Province, January 4, 2014.
According to the International Meteorite Organization (IMO), the peak is expected to occur around 14:30 GMT on Sunday January 3.
But it is usually difficult to predict when the peak will be.
“ This prediction is not consistent, ” said Robert Lonsford, a longtime meteorologist with the American Meteorological Society. Space.com.
We haven’t got this yet. He acts the way he wants.
If the IMO estimate is correct, then people in North America – especially on the West Coast and Pacific Islands – will have the best visibility this year, due to the time zone.
This is because the Quadrantids are best viewed during the night and dawn hours.
However, people in Europe may still be able to see the sights over the weekend, as long as the weather is clear.
A quadruple meteorite has fallen in the mighty Khengan Mountains in Heilongjiang Province, northeast China
Based on estimates by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Quadrantids can provide Europeans with decent sights on both Saturday night through Sunday morning and Sunday night through Monday morning.
“A careful observer should aim for the nights on both sides – January 2-3 (with meteors accumulating) or January 3-4 (with low), said Tania de Salis Marquez, astronomer at the Royal Observatory of Greenwich.
However, the waning moon will remain for most of the night, “forming a bright light source in the sky, making meteors difficult to spot.”
According to NASA, the Quadrantids reward most stargazers.
“For the Quadrantids display, find an area very far from city or street lights,” the space agency says.
Come prepared for the winter weather with a sleeping bag, blanket, or lawn chair.
Lie on your back with your feet pointing northeast and looking up, with as much of the sky as possible.
In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adjust and start seeing meteors.
“Be patient – the show will run until dawn, so you have plenty of time to peek.”
The easiest way to find a shower is to look north for the Big Dipper – the distinctive cluster of seven bright stars and a useful navigation tool.
A landscape of quadruple meteor precipitation in the mighty Khengan Mountains, Heilongjiang Province, northeast China, January 4, 2019
Then follow the “arc” of the Big Dipper’s handle across the sky to the red giant star Arcturus – this anchored below the constellation Bootes, where a meteor shower will appear.
Quadrantids derives their name from the constellation Quadrans Muralis – the Wall Quarter, created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalland in 1795.
It arose from a small asteroid called 2003 EH1 that is only about two miles (three kilometers) in diameter.
2003 EH1 was detected on March 6, 2003 by the Lowell Near Earth Object Search Observatory (LONEOS).
It takes 5.52 years for an asteroid to circle the Sun once.
Studies indicate that this body could have been part of a comet that shattered centuries ago.