Last night marked the peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower for 2013. However, despite what most of the news media may lead you to believe, there is a lot more to the Shower than the night of January 3/4. While most news outlets only focus on the peak night, the fact is that the Quadrantids will not be going away in any hurry.
Every year from late December into early January, Earth passes through the stretch of space junk, reaching the deepest concentration of debris tonight. According to some estimates, under ideal conditions (dark country skies), one can expect to see something in the range of 100 meteors per hour, an unusually strong year. The reason the meteors are called Quadrantids is because the meteors seem to radiate from the now defunct constellation Quadrans Muralis. The best time to view? Any time as the meteors radiate from near Polaris, the North Star, which is up all night.
So, how about viewing tips?
First, plan to stay out awhile, as it takes the human eye about 15 minutes to get optimal night vision capability. The bad news is that, even one bright flash of white light will wipe out night vision, requiring you to start the process all over again. Next, grab a lawn chair or, even better, a lounge-type chair. Trying to lean back with a straight-back lawn chair can be a pain in the neck, literally! Eyes ready for dark and with something to sit/lay on, settle in for a night of hopeful meteor watching (or at the very least, stargazing), just try not to fall asleep and don't forget to dress warmly!
Besides meteors, tonight can be a great time for binocular viewing, owing to your use of a chair. Under suburban (maybe) or rural skies (definitely), a pair of medium power (10x50) binoculars can yield some stunning wide-angle sights. For someone truly dedicated, why not try and keep a tally of how many meteors you see for every complete hour? Really ambitious? Why not try photographing the meteors?
To improve odds of seeing meteors, travel out of light polluted Cleveland and to the suburbs or, even better, the country if you can. In the suburbs, just going from the front to back yard can make a dramatic difference as this will eliminate glare from those pesky street/house lights to a large extent.
Two things can ruin the meteor shower: clouds and the Moon. The clouds? Well, that's a regional thing. Check your local Clear Sky Clock to see what the clouds have in store for your location tonight. Unfortunately, for us in the Cleveland area, tonight is looking terrible, which means that we'll have to content ourselves by listening to the shower. As for the Moon, that's an Earth-wide issue. The bad news is that, this year, the Moon is a fat waning gibbeous, thus meaning that it will be bright and up most of the night. The good: even the Moon can't outshine the brightest meteors. .
Cloudy near you? Don't worry, space.com will be holding a life webcast courtesy of the NASA Marshall Center tonight, too.
Hit the 'subscribe' button for automatic email updates when I write something new!
Want even more? Check out my personal website:
Bodzash Photography & Astronomy