2016 Quadrantid Shower

2016 Quadrantid CompositeThe annual Quadrantid meteor shower occurs when debris from minor planet 2003 EH1 intercepts the Earth at a high velocity (41 km/s, 92,000 mph). This parent body 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 90 meteors recorded between sunset on January 3 and sunrise on January 4. Although the image was collected over about eight hours, most of the meteors occurred during just a few hours (see the frequency plot below). Because of this, and also because of its high declination, the radiant of the shower is quite apparent in this image. The shower is caused by a very narrow debris stream, and the peak activity this year occurred before sunrise in Colorado.

The conditions this year were excellent, with clear skies and almost no interference from the Moon.

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. The meteors recorded here are magnitude 1 and brighter, a visual observer would see several times higher counts. The increase in activity over the evening was probably a combination of an actual increase in particle density as well as an apparent increase caused by the radiant getting higher in the sky (the orange line plots the radiant height, reaching 71° at 14:00 UT).

2016 Quadrantid Activity

© Copyright 2016, Chris L Peterson. All rights reserved.