The Quadrantids, one of the year’s greatest and fastest meteor showers, begin in January.
The American Meteor Society states that the shower will peak over night between January 3 and 4. The optimum time to observe the shower in the Northern Hemisphere is late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
The remains of broken asteroids and comet particles that spread in dusty paths around the sun are known as meteors. Every year, as Earth moves through the debris trails, little particles of rock and dust combine to form meteor showers—bright, fiery displays of colour created by the fragments breaking apart in Earth’s atmosphere.
The six-hour peak of the Quadrantid shower makes it famously difficult to view. Because Earth swiftly passes over the densest concentration of those particles at a perpendicular angle, the meteor shower’s peak has a shorter duration than typical meteor showers, which peak over two days, according to NASA.
While meteors will be visible for hours before the shower peaks, predictions place it between 4 and 10 a.m. ET (9 and 3 p.m. CUT). For those who live in North America, the American Meteor Society advises keeping a watch out for meteors between the hours of one and five a.m.
Those in North America’s East Coast area benefit from the earlier time, while watchers in Hawaii and Alaska benefit more from the later time. Because the shower’s radiant point doesn’t reach very high in that hemisphere’s sky before dawn, the Quadrantids are typically visible there.
What you are going to see
Over 100 meteors per hour that are visible are possible at the peak. During the meteor shower, you might even catch a glimpse of some fireballs, which are dazzling flashes of colour and light associated with larger particles that remain longer than regular meteor streaks, according to NASA.
Look up into the north-northeast sky. The American Meteor Society suggests that you observe the skies for at least an hour starting at 2 a.m. local time whether standing or sitting with the moon at your back.
The Northern Hemisphere’s wintry, bad weather will determine visibility. The shower’s visibility may be affected by the moon’s 51% full phase, although the society advises attempting to obscure the moon with a tree or other structure.
You could wish to take driving to a location that isn’t surrounded by bright city lights if you reside in an urban area. Every few minutes from late evening to morning, if you can locate a spot free of light pollution, you might be able to see meteors.
Find an open space that offers a broad view of the sky. Ascertain that you have a chair or blanket that will allow you to gaze upward. In order to make the meteors easier to see, give your eyes 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness without checking your phone.
If the name of the meteor shower sounds odd, it’s most likely because it has no apparent connection to a constellation. This is because the constellation that gave rise to the Quadrantids is no longer in being alive, or at least not one that is officially recognised.
According to EarthSky, the constellation Quadrans Muralis, which was first seen and recorded in 1795 between Boötes and Draco, is no longer recognised by the International Astronomical Union as a modern constellation because it is no longer regarded as an accurate celestial navigation landmark.
The Quadrantid meteor shower, like the Geminid meteor shower, is rare in that it originates from an unknown asteroid or “rock comet” as opposed to an icy comet. This specific asteroid, 2003 EH1, is 2 miles (3.2 km) large and completes one orbit of the sun in 5.52 years.
However, according to EarthSky, researchers think Comet 96P/Machholz, a second object, might have some role in the shower. Every five and a half years, the comet orbits the sun.
Researchers believe that approximately 2000 BC, the sun gravitationally threw a larger comet into a brief orbit. Before disintegrating somewhere between the years 100 and 950, the comet left behind meteors for years. Consequently, the comet left behind a multitude of celestial progeny generally referred to as the Machholz Complex, which includes, according to EarthSky, two distinct comet groups, eight meteor showers, and the parent bodies of the Quadrantid meteor shower, Comet 96P/Machholz and asteroid 2003 EH1.
2024 meteor showers
There is a bit of a lull in meteor shower activity after the Quadrantids, with the next one not happening until April.
- Lyrids: April 21-22
- Eta Aquariids: May 4-5
- Southern delta Aquariids: July 29-30
- Alpha Capricornids: July 30-31
- Perseids: August 11-12
- Draconids: October 7-8
- Orionids: October 20-21
- Southern Taurids: November 4-5
- Northern Taurids: November 11-12
- Leonids: November 17-18
- Geminids: December 13-14
- Ursids: December 21-22
Full moons and supermoons
EarthSky predicts that in 2024 there will be twelve full moons and that the lunar events in September and October will also be regarded as supermoons.
Supermoons are defined differently, but in general, a supermoon is a full moon that is larger and brighter in the night sky because it is closer to Earth than usual. According to some astronomers, the phenomena happens when the moon is 90% of the way to perigee, or the closest point in its orbit to Earth.
The Farmers’ Almanack connects a particular name to the full moon of each month. However, several indigenous cultures have different names and meanings for the full moons.
Here are the full moons of 2024:
- January 25: Wolf moon
- February 24: Snow moon
- March 25: Worm moon
- April 23: Pink moon
- May 23: Flower moon
- June 21: Strawberry moon
- July 21: Buck moon
- August 19: Sturgeon moon
- September 17: Harvest moon
- October 17: Hunter’s moon
- November 15: Beaver moon
- December 15: Cold moon
Solar and lunar eclipses
The Old Farmer’s Almanack predicts that there will be several eclipses in 2024, including two kinds of solar eclipses and two kinds of lunar eclipses.
The total solar eclipse that will take place on April 8 and be visible to those in Mexico, the US, and Canada is the most eagerly awaited of these events. When the moon totally masks the sun’s face as it moves between Earth and the sun, it is known as a total solar eclipse.
A total solar eclipse will occur where the moon’s shadow fully obscures the sun, which is known as the path of totality. A partial solar eclipse, in which the moon merely covers a portion of the sun’s face, can still be seen by those who are not in the path of totality.
Not until August 2044 will a total solar eclipse be visible across the contiguous United States.
On October 2, there will be an annular solar eclipse over parts of South America. Similar to a total solar eclipse, this kind of eclipse is caused by the moon’s orbital distance from Earth, which prevents it from totally blocking the sun. Rather, an annular solar eclipse forms a “ring of fire” in the sky due to the sun’s blazing brilliance enveloping the shadow of the moon.
In the meanwhile, on March 24–25, many people in Europe, North and East Asia, Australia, Africa, North America, and South America will be able to see a penumbral lunar eclipse.
When the sun, Earth, and moon line up such that the moon moves into Earth’s shadow, it creates a lunar eclipse, which makes the moon appear deeper or darker. A less dramatic lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the penumbra, or outer shadow, of the Earth.
Between September 17 and 18, a partial lunar eclipse—which occurs when the Earth passes partially between the sun and the full moon without precisely aligning—will be visible throughout much of Asia, Africa, North America, and South America.
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