Forwarded by: fwestra@...
Original Date: 3 Jan 2001 00:48:22 -0000
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Quadrantid meteors promise fireworks this week
Quadrantid meteors observed in 1995 by members of the International
(CNN) -- Those willing to venture out into predawn chill this
Wednesday will get a chance to observe one of the most intense yet
least-observed of annual meteor showers.
The Quadrantids officially began December 28, but should reach a sharp
maximum on January 4 between midnight and 7 a.m. EST, with as many as
200 shooting stars visible per hour.
The first-quarter moon should pose no interference. It sets shortly
after midnight, leaving the skies fully dark from then on, according
to Sky and Telescope magazine.
o The radiant, or visual center, of the Quadrantid shower rises
around midnight local time at mid-latitudes in the Northern
Hemisphere. To find the radiant at, say, 4 a.m., go outside and face
north. The radiant will appear about 40 degrees eastward of the north
o The naked eye is usually best for seeing meteors, which often
streak more than 45 degrees across the sky.
o Dress warmly and bring a reclining chair, or spread a thick
blanket over a flat spot of ground.
o Lie down and look up somewhat toward the north.
Meteor showers occur when then the Earth passes through streams of
solid particles, dust size and larger, moving as a group through
space. The particles leave brilliant trails, sometimes called shooting
stars, as they burn up in the atmosphere.
The Quadrantids are also among the least observed of the annual meteor
showers, in part because of the weather, according to NASA. The
shower's radiant is located high in the northern sky, so the
Quadrantids are visible mainly to observers in the Northern
Hemisphere, where the weather is cold and often stormy in January.
Plus the shower's peak is relatively brief, usually lasting only a few
With observations in short supply, many basic questions about the
Quadrantids remain unanswered. For example, the source of the
Quadrantid meteors is unknown.
The shower takes its name from an obsolete constellation called
Quadrans Muralis found in early 19th-century star atlases between
Draco, Hercules, and Bootes.
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