2011 Quadrantid Shower

2011 Quadrantid CompositeThe annual Quadrantid meteor shower occurs when debris from an asteroid or comet intercepts the Earth at a high velocity (41 km/s, 92,000 mph). The parent body of the stream has recently been proposed to be the minor planet 2003 EH1, which is itself probably a burned out comet. Meteor showers are named for the constellation of their radiant. The Quadrantids are unusual in being named for Quadrans Muralis, a constellation name that is no longer in use. This shower is sometimes called the Boötids because the radiant is found in the constellation Boötes.

This is a composite image of 65 meteors recorded between sunset on January 2 and sunrise on January 4 (22 on the first night, 43 on the second). Although the image was collected over about eight hours, most of the meteors occurred during just a couple of hours (see the frequency plot below). Because of this, and also because of its high declination, the radiant of the shower is very apparent in this image.

The conditions this year were ideal- good weather and no Moon. I would have expected to collect many more meteors than are seen here. The reason for the low activity is uncertain- the shower may have had a narrow peak that occurred before the radiant rose in Colorado, or after sunrise. Another possibility it that undetected local conditions- clouds or fog- might have occurred during the night and interfered with seeing conditions.

Fireball videos:

This chart plots the total meteor activity over the evening of January 3/4. The radiant rose in Colorado at about UT 05:00, and astronomical twilight began at UT 12:45, extending to dawn at UT 14:20. The hourly rate is a simple raw count, uncorrected for ZHR. These data clearly show a significant peak in activity around 12:00.

2011 Quadrantid Activity

© Copyright 2011, Chris L Peterson. All rights reserved.