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Observing campaign : Quadrantids 2008

French version

If most of the amator astronomers usually rest during the nights following the New Year Day, meteor observers should quickly catch up with the lack of sleep if they don't want to miss the first dramatic meteor display of the year : Quadrantids!

Two fortunate phenomena meet this year to favor the observation of this high activity (ZHR ranging from 80 to 200!) shower from Western Europe. The first is the absence of Moon: New on January, 9th, it will raise at the end of the night (between 4h-4h 30 UT the night of the maximum), but the thin crescent shouldn't be a major nuisance for observing. The second favorable parameter is the IMO (International Meteor Organization, predicted time of the maximum: January, 4th, 6h 45 UT. Even if it's not exactly perfect for most of the countries, as the Sun will have raised at that time, it's hard to have better observing conditions! The Quadrantid radiant, from which meteors seem to radiate, is situated between the constellations of Hercules, Draco and Bootes. It's thus circumpolar for the mid-Northern latitudes watchers, and Quadrantids are theoritically observable all night long! But it's to note that at the beginning of the night, the radiant is very close from the Northern horizon, and that it has much difficulties to elevate. It's only at the end of the night that it manages, and that the number of observable Quadrantids will raise.

To sum up, the predicted maximum will occur this year in a nearly moonless sky, at the end of the night! Could we ask something better? Yes, that the maximum will really occur at the predicted time... One characterisitc of the Quadrantids id the shortness of its activity peak, which barely exceeds several hours. That is to say that if it happens later than expected, it will be lost, as the Sun will have raised for long. But if it happens sooner, it'll be even better! We just have to wait now, and try to record the maximum of activity, which is sometimes unobserved: if the weather becomes bad, or the time of maximum isn't favorable, activity peak can easily be missed, or only one or two observers will manage to catch it. That can explain why the activity of this shower seems to fluctuate with such an amplitude. So if you want 2008 Quadrantid data to be reliable, don't hesitate to wake up on January, 4th morning!

This night should be the more interesting to monitor: as time will pass, the number of observed Quadrantids will increase under the conjuguated effects of the rise of the radiant and the closer time to the maximum activity. Out of the maximum night, and during the short (5 days) activity period of the Quadrantids, the rate should be quite interesting (close to 20 during the nights following and preceeding the maximum). However, this activity will be better observed only at the end of the night, when the radiant will be high enough.

Quadrantids are medium speed meteors (reentry speed of 41 km/s), and quite bright during the maximum (population index of 2.1). Visual observers should center their field of view on the constellation of Leo, where the biggest number of Quadrantids should appear at the end of the nights. Radio observers can also get very interesting data, as they'll be able to record the activity of the shower after sunrise, and will thus be able to "see" the predicted maximum, if it happens at the predicted time or later!

Clear skies to all!


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Dernière mise à jour : août 07, 2008.