Copyright 2008 Starry Mirror
Astronomy From West Virginia
QUADRANTID METEORS PUT ON A GREAT DISPLAY - JANUARY 03, 2009
BRIDGEPORT, WV (S-M) - The 2009 Quadrantid meteor shower was active this morning, and the shower put on a great display with numerous fireballs being seen from our location. Meteors were coming fast enough that even through the limited opening of our observatory, we were seeing at least one every five minutes, and so an observer out in the open would have seen meteors at a rate of at least 150 per hour.
We first noticed the meteors when we were opening the shutter of our observatory at around 430am ET. Two bright, fast meteors shot straight down in the west, through Auriga. Then as we were watching Saturn high in the south, from 600 to 630 we noticed several very bright fireballs streaking towards the horizon in the region of Corvus and Libra. One fireball at about 610 was brighter than Venus. A fireball at 621 was seen just east of Corvus and was far brighter than Sirius. The most amazing thing about these meteors was their speed. They were like quick flashes of brilliant light across the sky, lasting not more than 1/2 second.
The Quadrantids are named after the dufunct Quadrans constellation. They actually appear to radiate from the area of the sky which today we call Bootes. It is thought that the shower is associated with a comet which appeared in 1490, but this is not certain. An asteroid called 2003/EH1 was recently found, and it may actually be a burned-out piece of that comet. Though its orbit is similar to that of the specks of dust which become meteors, the orbit of the asteroid misses crossing the Earth's orbit by around 25 million miles. It is possible that the object formerly crossed the Earth's orbit, but has since been pulled into a new orbit by a close encounter with a planet. Perhaps with further computational work, 2003/EH1 will in fact be found to be the parent of the Quadrantids shower, but this remains to be seen. - GW