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Athens News Agency: News in English, 12-01-03

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From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Quadrantids, the first meteor shower of 2012

  • [01] Quadrantids, the first meteor shower of 2012

    AMNA--The first meteor shower of 2012, the lesser known Quadrantid meteor shower, kicks off a new skywatching year as it peaks in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, putting on a brief but spectacular cosmic fireworks display.

    Unlike most of the meteor displays in 2011, which were washed out by a bright moon, the Quadrantids are anticipated to put on a spectacular show without lunar interference, thanks to a waxing gibbous moon.

    Given that the moon will set in Greece at 3:12 a.m. and the sky starts becoming bright around 6:30 a.m., with the sun set to rise at 7:41 a.m. and the peak anticipated at 9:00 a.m. (07:00 GMT), the best time for optimum viewing is between 3:12 and 6:30 a.m. at a spot as far away from city lights as possible.

    Like the Geminids, the Quadrantid meteors originate from the asteroid 2003 EH1, and were first seen in 1825. According to some studies, this cosmic body could be a piece of a comet that broke apart several centuries ago, and the Quadrantids are the small debris from this fragmentation, according to NASA.

    After hundreds of years of orbiting the sun, they will enter Earthís atmosphere at a blistering speed of nearly 145,000 kilometers per hour, burning up at about 80 km above the planet's surface.

    Most meteor showers get their name based on the constellations from which they appear to streak. When we look at the so-called radiants, we are looking down the paths of the meteors that strike Earth's atmosphere.

    Because of the location of the radiant, at the northern tip of the constellation Bootes, only northern hemisphere skywatchers will be able to see Quadrantids.

    The Quadrantids were named after the constellation of Quadrans Muralis, the wall quadrant, which was created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795 and is located between the constellations of Bootes and Draco. Quadrans represents an early astronomical instrument that was used to observe and plot stars.

    Interestingly, the constellation is no longer recognized by the astronomical community, but was around long enough to give the meteor shower its name, which lives on with the January meteor shower.amna

    The Quadrantids can be quite impressive with a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of up to 120 meteors per hour at their peak (under perfect conditions) and can sometimes produce rates of 60 to 200 meteors per hour. The peak is quite narrow lasting only a few hours, with activity either side of the peak sometimes being weak, but well worth observing, and this year promises a dazzling performance, without competition from the moonlight.

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