Quadrantids 2012

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Alastair McBeath
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Quadrantids 2012

Post by Alastair McBeath »

Waxing gibbous moonset for UK observers on January 3-4 (roughly between 03:30-04:30 UT) will still leave a few pre-dawn hours to see what the Quadrantid near-peak rates may be. The shower's maximum is due soon after 07h on January 4th, just too late for visual observers in Britain, although the shower's circumpolar radiant in northern Boötes (an area once called Quadrans Muralis, the Wall Quadrant, hence the shower's otherwise obscure name) will be near culmination then. Radio observers however, should be able to follow whatever the shower produces well into the daylight hours.

From UK sites, Quadrantid visual observing is only practical from about midnight onwards, even without the Moon, due to the radiant being at its daily lowest in the evening. Best Quadrantid Zenithal Hourly Rates (ZHRs) can vary from year to year, but have recently been about 120, while the maximum tends to be short and quite sharp, and its timing is not always constant. An earlier prediction for stronger than normal activity this year, perhaps between 01h-10h on January 4, has more recently been suggested as less likely, unfortunately.

Quadrantids have long been thought active from January 1-5 or so, though recent video evidence suggests weak activity may persist from December 28 to January 12 instead.

If you're intending to start watching before moonset on the maximum night, observe as much clearer sky as you can comfortably, looking away from the Moon or any surfaces reflecting moonlight, but not too close to the Quadrantid radiant (because shower meteor trails are much shorter nearer the radiant, and thus harder to see). This advice applies as well for anyone hoping to try some Quadrantid imaging.

Quadrantids are medium-speed meteors, often reasonably bright near the peak.

Good luck, and clear skies!

Alastair McBeath,
Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy.
E-mail: <meteor@popastro.com> (messages under 150 kB in size only, please)
Alastair McBeath
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Post by Alastair McBeath »

Much to my surprise, last night (Jan 3-4) was clear throughout here in NE England, so for once I was able to observe near the peak of a major shower. Sorry to see I seem to have been alone here so far.

I tried a couple of extended sky-checks before moonset, and after midnight UT, but with the Quadrantid radiant still quite low, and the sky unhelpfully bright (the sky limiting magnitude, LM, was no better than +5.3), I spotted only four meteors in about forty minutes of casual watching.

I headed out to try some proper meteor observing just before two a.m., with a low, north-westering Moon, and despite the LM having improved only marginally to +5.4, I was reasonably pleased to see eleven Quadrantids and a handful of sporadics in the following hour.

However, the wind had picked-up again, albeit not quite to the gale it had been all day on the 3rd, and it was difficult to find shelter from both it and the Moon, so I came in to warm-up around three o'clock.

With additional layers to guard against the icy wind, I went back out again forty minutes later, by when the Moon was almost setting. The LM improved after moonset, naturally, though not as much as I'd hoped thanks to some variable, thin haze. It averaged about +5.65 after 04:00 UT through till clouds suddenly came up around 06:30 and halted proceedings. In the 2h45m effective observing time I could manage, I was happy to have seen just over a ton of meteors, 87 Quadrantids, albeit I saw nothing brighter than magnitude -2 all night (that was my brightest Quadrantid, at 05:33).

Shower activity was certainly very healthy during this final watch, and my first ZHR estimates from my own data alone were roughly 60-90 (higher later). Whether this means the peak was indeed approaching around 07h UT, we'll have to wait and see, of course! The International Meteor Organization's (IMO's) "live" datapage should have the first results later today from North America, where the maximum would most likely have been observed, if it kept to the predicted time, at:

http://www.imo.net/live/quadrantids2012/ .

All further detailed results on the shower would be most welcome!

Alastair McBeath,
Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy.
E-mail: <meteor@popastro.com> (messages under 150 kB in size only, please)
dualyn
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Post by dualyn »

Hi Alastair,
i went out but all i had was wall to wall cloud,then i got hit with some rain so i went back in to the house this would be 06.30 GMT.
It's nice to hear you faired a lot better than i did mate.I come from Bishop Auckland.
Anyway speak to you again,clear skies Alastair.

Regards Duane.
Celestron CPC 800 GPS XLT,10"Dob,Revelation 20x80 and Helios 12x40 Bins,Lots of E/P's inc 13-24mm Hyperions,lots of filters,8"dewcap,etc.
A PATIENT WIFE.
Alastair McBeath
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Re: Quadrantids 2012

Post by Alastair McBeath »

Completing the round-up of shower reports prior to my standing-down as SPA Meteor Director in 2012 April, today we reach the 2012 Quadrantids.

Weather conditions were certainly kinder globally for this shower than others during the latter months of 2011, although the late-setting gibbous Moon restricted useful visual watching times quite considerably. UK observations were sadly few once again, and although support from the Section's overseas contributors was excellent, the IMO's visual dataset was of course much more complete even than these, and it is this which is used as the primary source of comparison information here. Two peaks were apparent in those results on January 4th, one around 05h-09h UT (average ZHRs ~ 80 ± 5), the other between roughly 17h-20:30 UT (average ZHRs ~ 75 ± 10), albeit the second maximum was based on a much smaller meteor sample. In between, and with a gap from about 14h-17h when no data were collected, activity seemed to have dropped to ~50 or so. There was also a drop to ZHRs of ~ 55 ± 10 in the hour centred at 07:40 UT during the first peak, although its significance was unclear as based on few meteors.

The IMO's Quadrantid video observations featured in that Organization's journal "WGN" 40:2 for 2012 April, pp. 76-79, notably pp. 76-77. These did not show a clear maximum at all, simply steeply rising rates overnight from Europe towards dawn on January 3-4. The estimated visual-ZHR-equivalent by circa 06h UT then was ~70. Unfortunately, no data were collected soon after the start of the following European night, thus no results were available to confirm the second IMO visual peak. Consequently, that feature has remained somewhat tentative.

Drawing on the radio results provided to the SPA, two main maxima were apparent on January 4th, from approximately 04h-06h and 11h-15h UT (recalling that the radio data are usually provided only in one-hour sampling intervals, so no greater temporal accuracy than to the nearest hour is possible). A much weaker possible third peak was found from 18h-20h UT or so, perhaps extending until 22h. The early part of the first radio maximum, through to the drop around 08h, mirrored the IMO visual findings fairly closely, but after that, the results diverged significantly, either in terms of peak timing for the second visual and radio maxima, or strength for the potential third event in both.

Careful checking of the data more closely suggested the second radio peak, though plausibly real, was perhaps of lesser significance than the first, as it happened at a time when the Quadrantid radiant was around its best-detectable from both the two main geographic observing regions, Europe and North America. The tertiary radio peak may similarly have been of somewhat more importance than its minor signature indicated, as it happened during the worst possible time for European observers, though all three maxima featured in data from both observing zones.

Quite why the visual and radio patterns were not closely identical after the first peak is uncertain. It is particularly curious the visual rates were not more impressive during the second radio maximum, as this was apparent in all the available, if limited, longer-duration radio echo data, which showed a distinct peak in the hour beginning at 12:00 UT, data which is generally supposed to be more representative of meteors that should be readily observed visually. The better-confirmed radio-visual "primary" peak was reasonably close to the predicted maximum time, at least!

The list of observers who contributed to this Quadrantid report follows, including details provided directly, or forwarded from the German Arbeitskreis Meteore (in their journal "Meteoros" 15:3, 2012 March, by Ina Rendtel; see http://www.meteoros.de ), from the North American Meteor Network by Rich Taibi and/or Mark Davis (see http://www.namnmeteors.org ), from 2012 February's "The Astronomer" magazine via Tony Markham (see http://www.theastronomer.org ) and from Radio Meteor Observation Bulletin 222 for 2012 January, from editor Chris Steyaert (see http://www.rmob.org ). In the list, "R" means radio observations were provided, "Vi" video or other imaging, and "V" visual data. Where not stated, that observer provided purely visual results.

Karl Antier (France), Rainer Arlt (Germany), Mike Boschat (Nova Scotia, Canada; R + V), Jeff Brower (British Columbia, Canada; R), Willy Camps (Belgium; R), Stefano Crivello (Italy; Vi), Mark Davis (South Carolina, USA), Gaspard De Wilde (Belgium; R), Franky Dubois (Belgium; R), Tony Flanders (Massachusetts, USA), Karl-Heinz Gansel (Germany; R), Luc Gobin (Belgium; R), Bill Godley (Oklahoma, USA), Oliver Hanke (Germany), Carl Hergenrother (Arizona, USA), Geoffrey Johnstone (UK), Paul Jones (Florida, USA), André Knöfel (Germany), Peter Knol (Netherlands; R), Richard Kramer (Massachusetts, USA), Tom Lloyd-Evans (Scotland), Pierre Martin (Ontario, Canada), Paul Martsching (Iowa, USA), Mikhail Maslov (Russia; Vi), Alastair McBeath (England), Peter Meadows (England; Vi), Sven Näther (Germany), Francisco Ocana (Spain), Mike Otte (Illinois, USA; R), Jürgen Rendtel (Germany), Clara Ricken (Germany), Steve Roush (Arizona, USA; R), Wayne Sanders (British Columbia, Canada; R), Christian Schmiel (Germany), Kai Schultze (Germany), Andy Smith (England; R), Chris Steyaert (Belgium; R), Wes Stone (Oregon, USA), Mikhail Svoiski (Arizona, USA; R), Rich Taibi (Maryland, USA), Istvan Tepliczky (Hungary; R), Felix Verbelen (Belgium; R), Oliver Wusk (Germany).

As ever, fulsome thanks go to every one of our contributors for their results and comments on the shower.

Alastair McBeath,
Assistant Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy.
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