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First meteor shower of year to originate from asteroids

Most meteor showers are caused by debris from comets, but a couple are known to originate from asteroids. This was the case for the December Geminids as well as will be the case for the first meteor shower of the New Year – the Quadrantids. However, although the window to observe the Geminids peak lasted most of the night and into the morning hours, the window for catching the Quadrantids will be much shorter. The particles that cause the Quadrantid meteor shower originate from the asteroid 2003 EH1. Since the orbit of 2003 EH1 is highly inclined to the orbit of the Earth, the Earth passes through it very quickly. The result is the Quadrantid meteor shower being an extremely short one, lasting only a few hours.

This meteor shower is one of the strongest meteor showers of the year, but observers can be disappointed if conditions are not just right. In 2013 the Quadrantids are predicted to reach a peak of about 120 meteors per hour at approximately 8 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 3. Although we may stand a good chance to see several meteors on that morning, the waning gibbous moon will be in the sky and may interfere with observing the fainter meteors in this shower.

Incidentally, meteor showers are typically named after the constellation out of which the meteors
seem to originate. However, there is no modern constellation of Quadrans. This shower retains its
name from the obsolete constellation of Quadrans Muralis – an instrument used to measure the position of the stars. If you plan on going out to catch this shower, the apparent radiant point will be
between the constellations of Bootes the Herdsman and Hercules the strong man.

In the stars
By: Damaris Higgins