2012’s first shooting stars, the Quadrantis meteors shower

The Quadrantis is not as famous or long lasting meteors shower as the Geminids (in mid-December) or the Perseids (in mid-August), but, in the short space of a few hours (that’s all its peak lasts) Northern Hemisphere observers mainly, from North America, Europe and most of Asia, could be treated up to 90/100 shooting stars per hour!  This is one of the highest predicted rates of all meteors showers, that can in fact compete with those of more famous showers.

Few keen observers from Australia may be able to see at least some of the Quadrantis’ display, the radiant reaching its highest point in the pre-dawn North-Eastern sky. We would need a fairly clear northern view of the sky to spot them, looking low near the actual horizon, where Bootes lay. Not the best showers for us I’m afraid.

It is from the direction of the ‘modern’ constellation of Quadrans Muralis (Wall Quadrant, named in 1795) that the meteors appear to originate, between the anciently named constellations of Bootes (the Herdsman, mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey, the 3.000 years old Greek epic) and Draco (the Dragon), both circumpolar stars groups. While the name of the shower derives from the constellation the latter is no longer recognized by contemporary astronomers, who now consider Quadrans just a portion of Bootes, the faint stars between the Herdsman and the Great Bear’s tail.

The phenomenon itself is caused by the regular passage of the Earth amongst the debris of an asteroid (known since1825 as 2003 EH1), itself probably the remain of a long extinct comet.

Happy viewing.

Interesting sites discussing the Quadrantis can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

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