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Viewing the Quadrantids

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Quadrantids Will Create Brief, Beautiful Show on Jan. 3-4

NASA has set up a live camera feed for the Web so you can see tomorrow’s meteor shower!

The 2012 Quadrantids, a little-known meteor shower named after an extinct constellation, will present an excellent chance for hardy souls to start the year off with some late-night meteor watching.

Peaking in the wee morning hours of Jan. 4, the Quadrantids have a maximum rate of about 100 per hour, varying between 60-200. The waxing gibbous moon will set around 3 a.m. local time, leaving about two hours of excellent meteor observing before dawn. It’s a good thing, too, because unlike the more famous Perseid and Geminid meteor showers, the Quadrantids only last a few hours — it’s the morning of Jan. 4, or nothing.

Like the Geminids, the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid, called 2003 EH1. Dynamical studies suggest that this body could very well be a piece of a comet which broke apart several centuries ago, and that the meteors you will see before dawn on Jan. 4 are the small debris from this fragmentation. After hundreds of years orbiting the sun, they will enter our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth’s surface — a fiery end to a long journey!

The Quadrantids derive their name from the constellation of Quadrans Muralis (mural quadrant), which was created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795. Located between the constellations of Bootes and Draco, Quadrans represents an early astronomical instrument used to observe and plot stars. Even though the constellation is no longer recognized by astronomers, it was around long enough to give the meteor shower — first seen in 1825 — its name.

Given the location of the radiant — northern tip of Bootes the Herdsman — only northern hemisphere observers will be able to see Quadrantids.

Viewing the Quadrantids: Live Web Cam and World Visibility Map

A live video feed of the Quadrantid meteor shower is embedded below. The camera is mounted at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. During the day, you’ll see a dark gray box or perhaps some very colorful static — the camera is light-activated and will turn on at dusk each evening.

ustream.tv

You can also check out other allsky camera links to see alternate views of the Quadrantids, and view this map to see worldwide Quadrantid visibility. Red areas will see no Quads, yellow areas a few, and green areas should see a decent shower if skies are dark. To view tonight’s Quadrantids, you should have an area with dark skies well away from city or street lights. Dress warmly and go out just after moonset around 3 a.m. local time. Lie flat on your back on a blanket, lawn chair, or sleeping bag and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient — the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a meteor.
www.nasa.gov

Written by physicsgg

January 3, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Posted in ASTRONOMY

Tagged with ,

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