Shooting Out of the Quadrant


If you wake up early tomorrow (January 4) and are in the Northern Hemisphere and the conditions are clear, you can see the Quadrantid meteors in the predawn hours.

The annual Quadrantid shower is nominally active during the first week of January, and is best seen from northerly latitudes but, unlike other meteor showers, peak activity lasts less than a day. You need to be on the night side of Earth at that peak.

The Quadrantid shower doesn’t get as much attention as other longer-lasting ones. I’m also giving it some publicity because I feel bad for the defunct 19th century constellation Quadrans Muralis (mural quadrant) that it is named after. It was located between the constellations of Boötes and Draco, near the tail of Ursa Major (Big Bear). I don’t know why, but it is no longer in use. Possibly, it refused to use social media and a smartphone and so faded into obscurity. It is not alone. There is a whole group of former constellations.

That is the “quadrant” constellation in the top left. I’m sure that sailors used it at one time for navigation when quadrants were in use.

Find a dark, open sky, and look in a general north-northeast direction for an hour or so before dawn and you  might see up to 50 or more meteors per hour, but its peak is short and sweet.

In any case, you can use the waning crescent Moon and nearby Mars to the right of it to guide you on a line of about 45 degrees to Jupiter shines to the right/west of the moon and Venus and Saturn waiting  low in the southeast/left during the dark hour before dawn.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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