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Astronomers announce the Quadrantids, this year’s first meteor shower, that will have its peak on January 3. However, experts said that 2015 is not favorable for Quads’ observations since an almost full moon would interfere with the cosmic event.
The first major stargazing event in 2015 will peak this night at 9:00 p.m. EST. However, astronomers said that full visibility would be reached just before the break of dawn, when the moon sets at about 6:00 a.m local time.
Meteor showers get their names after the constellations from which they seem to surge. That’s why Perseids are called after constellation Perseus and Geminides after constellation Gemini.
Yet, currently there is no constellation Quadrans. However, a former constellation called the Wall Quadrant was incorporated into Boötes in 1922.
The Wall Quadrant took its name after an astronomical instrument used to do mathematical measurements on the sky before the telescope became mainstream. Thycho Brahe, a 16th century astronomer, used such tool to measure the position of the planets, while Johannes Kepler used a wall quadrant to develop his three astronomical laws about the way planets move on the sky.
In 1795, Lalande discovered the Wall Quadrant constellation between Draco and Boötes. In 1922, the International Astronomical Union reclassified 88 constellations and decided that Wall Quadrant was not a self-standing constellation.
The Quadrantid meteor shower has the same brightness and intensity as Perseids, but its peak is much shorter, lowering the chances of seeing it on a night sky. So, time is of the essence.
Astronomers calculated by using previous observations that the Quandrantid meteor shower will reach its peak at around 9:00 p.m. EST in the night between Jan 3 and Jan 4. They also said that the meteors would start surging from a point (called “radiant”) located close to the northern horizon from east and west.
As the hours pass by, the radiant will slowly rise and the meteors would be visible on a larger patch of sky mostly in the east. At 6:00 p.m., when the moon will set allowing full visibility on the shower, the radiant will be in its higher spot in the eastern sky. However, because the peak would be long time gone, there will be fewer meteors to see at that hour.
Professional astronomers say that the best time to look at the cosmic show is between midnight and 2 a.m local time. During that time, people should watch the sky in the east and don‘t forget to dress warmly. To dodge the moonlight, stargazers are recommended to stay in a location where the moon gets blocked by a tree or building.
For successful pictures of the meteor shower, astronomers recommend using a camera that allows a long exposure.
Image Source: Strange Sounds