Quadrantid Meteor Shower: The First Celestial Event of January

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The new year begins with the Quadrantids, one of the 12 annual gatherings meteor showers

The celestial event is typically among the strongest meteor showers and is expected to peak during the night of January 3 and 4, according to the American Meteor Society. Skygazers in the Northern Hemisphere can best see the shower between the evening hours of Tuesday and dawn on Wednesday.

However, the shower is notoriously difficult to observe due to its brief six-hour peak and the often inclement January weather in the Northern Hemisphere. A bright, near-full moon will make the Quadrantids even less visible this year.

Moonset will occur just before sunrise, providing a very small window to detect rain against the dark sky.

Predictions for peak rainfall range from 10:40 pm to 1:40 am ET (3:40 am to 6:40 am Greenwich Mean Time). Later weather favors those in eastern North America and earlier weather is more favorable for observers across Europe. The Quadrantids will not be visible in the southern hemisphere because the radiant point of the shower does not rise as high in your sky before dawn.

Check Site time and date to see what your chances are of seeing the event, or head out to take a look for yourself. The Virtual Telescope Project it will also have a live broadcast of the rain over Rome.

Between 50 and 100 meteors are typically visible per hour, especially in rural areas, although the peak can include up to 120 meteors visible in an hour.

Look at the northeast sky and look about halfway. You may even catch a glimpse of some fireballs during the meteor shower. Observe the skies for at least an hour, advises the American Meteor Society.

If you live in an urban area, you may want to drive somewhere that isn’t filled with bright city lights. If you can find an area that is not affected by light pollution, the meteors could be visible every two minutes from late afternoon until dawn.

Find an open area with a wide view of the sky. Make sure you have a chair or blanket so you can look up. And give your eyes 20-30 minutes to adjust to the dark, without looking at your phone, so meteors are easier to spot.

If the meteor shower’s name sounds strange, it’s probably because it doesn’t sound like it’s related to a constellation, like other meteor showers. That’s because the namesake constellation of the Quadrantids no longer exists, at least not as a recognized constellation.

The constellation Quadrans Muralis, first observed and noted in 1795 between Bootes and Draco, is no longer included in the International Astronomical Union’s list of modern constellations because it is considered obsolete and not used as a reference point for celestial navigation more, according to Earth Heaven.

As the Geminids meteor shower, the Quadrantid comes from a mysterious asteroid or “rock comet”, rather than an icy comet, which is unusual. This particular asteroid is 2003 EH1, which takes 5.52 years to complete one orbit around the sun. The shower’s peak is short because only a small stream of particles interacts with our atmosphere, and the stream occurs at a perpendicular angle. Every year, Earth passes through this debris trail for a short time.

In addition to the meteor shower, a recently discovered comet will soon make its appearance in the January night sky.

Discovered in March 2022, the comet will make its closest approach to the sun on January 12, according to POT. The comet, detected by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California, is named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and will make its closest pass to Earth on February 2.

The comet should be visible through binoculars in the morning sky to skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere during most of January and those in the Southern Hemisphere in early February, according to NASA.

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Here are the rest of the major sky events of 2023, so you can have your binoculars and telescope at the ready.

Mark your calendar with peak dates for other showers to see in 2023:

  • Lyrids: April 22-23
  • Eta Aquarids: May 5-6
  • South Delta Aquarids: July 30-31
  • Alpha Capricorns: July 30-31
  • Perseids: August 12-13
  • Orionids: October 20-21
  • Southern Taurids: November 4-5
  • Northern Taurids: November 11-12
  • Leonidas: November 17-18
  • Geminids: December 13-14
  • Ursids: December 21-22

Most years, there are 12 full moons, one for each month. But in 2023, there will be 13 full moons, two of which will occur in August.

The second full moon in a month is known as a blue moon, after the phrase “once in a blue moon” according to POT. Full moons typically occur every 29 days, while most months on our calendar are 30 or 31 days long, so the months and moon phases don’t always line up. This results in a blue moon every 2.5 years.

The two full moons in August can also be considered supermoons, according to Earth Heaven. Definitions of a supermoon varybut the term generally denotes a full moon that is brighter and closer to Earth than normal, and therefore appears larger in the night sky.

Some astronomers say the phenomenon occurs when the moon is within 90% of perigee, its closest approach to orbiting Earth. By that definition, the July full moon will also be considered a supermoon event, according to Earth Heaven.

Here is the list of full moons for 2023, according to the farmer’s almanac:

  • January 6: Wolf Moon
  • February 5: Snow Moon
  • March 7: Worm Moon
  • April 6: Pink Moon
  • May 5: Flower Moon
  • June 3: Strawberry Moon
  • July 3: Buck moon
  • August 1: Sturgeon Moon
  • August 30: Blue Moon
  • September 29: Harvest Moon
  • October 28: Hunter’s Moon
  • November 27: Beaver Moon
  • December 26: Cold Moon

While these are the popular names associated with the monthly full moon, each has its own meaning in Native American tribes (with many also referred to by different names).

There will be two solar eclipses and two lunar eclipses in 2023.

A total solar eclipse will occur on april 20, visible to those in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and Antarctica. This type of event occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the Earth, blocking the sun.

And for some skywatchers in Indonesia, parts of Australia, and Papua New Guinea, it will actually be a hybrid solar eclipse. The curvature of Earth’s surface can cause some eclipses to shift between total and annular as the moon’s shadow moves across the globe, according to POT.

Like a total solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth during an annular eclipse, but it occurs when the moon is at or near its farthest point from Earth, according to NASA. This makes the moon appear smaller than the sun, so it doesn’t completely block our star and creates a bright ring around the moon.

An annular solar eclipse that will sweep the Western Hemisphere will occur on October 14 and will be visible throughout America.

Be sure to wear proper eclipse glasses to safely view solar eclipses, as sunlight can damage your eyes.

Meanwhile, a lunar eclipse it can occur only during a full moon when the sun, Earth, and moon align and the moon passes into Earth’s shadow. When this happens, the Earth casts two shadows on the Moon during the eclipse. Partial outer shadow is called penumbra; the full, dark shadow is the umbra.

When the full moon moves into Earth’s shadow, it darkens, but does not disappear. Instead, sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere illuminates the moon in a dramatic fashion, turning it red, which is why the event is often called a “blood moon.”

Depending on the weather conditions in your area, it can be a rusty red or brick-colored. This happens because blue light undergoes stronger atmospheric scattering, so red light will be the most dominant color highlighted when sunlight passes through the atmosphere and hurls it at the moon.

A total lunar eclipse appeared in the skies of Canta, east of Lima, on May 15, 2022.

A Penumbral lunar eclipse will occur on May 5 for those in Africa, Asia and Australia. This less dramatic version of a lunar eclipse occurs when the moon moves through the penumbra, or the dim outer part of Earth’s shadow.

A partial lunar eclipse of hunter’s moon on October 28 it will be visible to those in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, parts of North America, and much of South America. Partial eclipses occur when the sun, Earth, and moon don’t completely align, so only part of the moon goes into shadow.

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