2019 Quadrantids

A major meteor shower that produces a high activity, but rather narrow, peak

Main Activity Dates Jan 1 – 6
Peak Rates Jan 04d 02h UT
Peak ZHR 80 +
Best Observed Rates After midnight on Jan 3–4
Visibility each night (UK) Visible all night – radiant highest around dawn
Moonlight issues at maximum None – new Moon on Jan 6

The year starts with an intense, but short-lived, meteor shower: the Quadrantids.

Although some outliers can be identified by imagers before and after the dates given above, Quadrantid activity is really only evident to visual observers between Jan 1 and Jan 6 each year, with the peak occurring at some time during Jan 3-4. The shower produces a good number of bright trained meteors.

The chart below shows the location of the Quadrantid radiant relative to the stars of Draco, northern Bootes and the Plough, with the UK horizon shown for around 22h GMT.

Quadrantid radiant
Quadrantid radiant

With the peak being so narrow, we need several factors to be in our favour to see the Quadrantids at their very best:

– the peak needs to occur during the hours of darkness

– the radiant needs to be high in the sky

– the Moon needs to be out of the way

In 2019, all these requirements will be met pretty well:

– the Moon is a thin crescent in the morning sky, rising only after astronomical twilight begins on the 4th

– the peak is predicted to occur in the early morning for UK based observers.

– the pre-dawn skies, when the radiant is highest, are close to the time of the peak.

 

Recent ZHR values:

Peak Quadrantid ZHRs seem to vary from year to year. In 2012, the peak ZHR only reached around 80, whereas in 2009 the peak was broader with the ZHR exceeding 100. The most recent year in which the Quadrantid peak was well observed was 2014. The IMO activity curve for the 2014 Quadrantids http://www.imo.net/members/imo_live_shower?shower=QUA&year=2014  suggests that a particularly strong return was seen, with the peak ZHR probably exceeding 150. Observations in 2015 were severely hindered by a bright Moon. The 2016 Quadrantids were better seen, but the IMO activity curve included no observations close to the predicted peak time of 08h UT – the ZHR had reached about 70 an hour before this time. Observed hourly rates will, of course, be lower than the ZHR value, but you can maximise the number that you see by choosing a dark observing site with a clear view of the sky.

The Quadrantid radiant, being located at Dec +49, is circumpolar for observers north of latitude 41 N. It is lowest in the sky at around 20h local time and highest at the end of night. Few observers will have the stamina to stay out all night, but another option (for those who can drag themselves from their warm bed!) is get some rest in the evening of January 3 then observe from midnight until dawn with the radiant high in the sky.