Stargazers will be able to catch a glimpse of the Quadrantid meteor shower this weekend, which illuminates the sky with 200 shooting stars every hour.
The annual meteor shower runs every year between 28 December to 12 January, but the best scene in the UK in 2021 will be after dark on 2 and 3 January.
Quadrantids are known to produce between 50 and 200 meteors per hour on a clear night, and are described by NASA as one of the best annual meteor showers.
Meteors are fragments of rocky debris that enter the Earth’s atmosphere up to 40 miles per second, releasing stripes of light that we call ‘shooting stars’.
Quadrilateral on the Great Khingan Mountains in Heilongjiang Province, northeast China, on January 4, 2019
Quadrantids are particularly known for their bright ‘fireballs’ meteors that emit large bursts of light and color that last longer than average meteor stripes.
This is due to the fact that according to NASA, fire spheres are produced from large particles of material.
Most meteor bodies have a peak of two days, but the ‘peak’ window in the quadrantids is only six hours.
NASA says, “Peak being so small is due to the thin stream of particles and the fact that the Earth crosses the stream at a vertical angle.”
Quadrantids are best seen in the Northern Hemisphere because their bright point – the point at which a meteor is produced – is so far north at the dome of the sky.
The easiest way to find the shower is to look north for the Big Dipper. Then follow the ‘arc’ of the Big Dipper’s handle to the red giant star Arcturus in the sky – it will anchor under the constellation boot, where the meteor shower will appear
On January 4, 2014, a meteorite leapt backward during the annual quadrilateral meteor shower in Chengdu, Shandong Province
According to the International Meteor Organization (IMO), the peak is expected to be around 3:30 GMT on Sunday, 3 January.
But in fact when it is extreme it is usually difficult to predict.
Robert Lansford, a longtime meteor observer with the American Meta Society, previously stated that “this prophecy is not set in stone.”
‘We haven’t got it yet. It acts the way it wants. ‘
If the IMO estimate is correct, then people in North America – particularly on the West Coast, and the Pacific Islands – will get the best view this year, due to the time zone.
The reason for this is that quadrantids are best seen during the night and prewar hours.
However, people in Europe may still be able to capture a view on weekends, as long as the weather is not clear.
Quadrangular meteor shower in the Great Khingan Mountains of Heilongjiang Province, Northeast China
Based on IMO estimates, quadrantids can provide Europeans with a decent view of both Saturday night to Sunday morning and Sunday night from Monday to Monday morning.
Astronomer Tania de Sales Markis of the Royal Observatory Greenwich said, “keen observers should aim for nights on either side – 2-3 January (as meteor showers build) or 3-4 January (as it falls.” Comes). “
However, the longest circling moons of the night, ‘form a bright light source in the sky, which will make meteors harder to spot’, he said.
According to NASA, quadrantids reward the most patients of stargazers.
The space agency says, “To see the quadrantids find an area well away from the city or streetlights.”
‘Get ready for the winter season with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair.
East Lie on your back with your feet facing north-east and raise as much as possible in the sky above.
‘In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will be friendly and you will see a meteor.
‘Be patient – this show will run till dawn, so you’ll have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.
The easiest way to find a shower is to look north for the Big Dipper – the distinctive cluster of seven bright stars and a useful navigation tool.
Quadrilateral meteor shower on the Great Khingan mountain of Heilongjiang province, northeast of Great China
Then follow the ‘arch’ of the Big Dipper’s handle to the red giant star Arcturus in the sky – it anchors the lower part of the constellation, where the meteor shower will appear.
Quadrantids derive their name from the constellation of Quadrens Murali – Mural Quadrant, created in 1795 by French astronomer Jerome Lalande.
They originate from a small asteroid, called 2003 EH1, with a diameter of only two miles (three kilometers).
The 2003 EH1 was discovered on March 6, 2003 by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search (Lonos).
The asteroid, once orbiting the Sun, has an impact of 5.52 years.
Studies show that this body may be a fragment of a comet that broke several centuries ago.