Jan 2/3 Meteors and a Great Quadrantid Display

The Quadrantids put on a great show last night. With 107 meteors detected, my camera broke its previous nightly record of 80 meteors. At least 73 of the meteors were Quadrantids and I suspect that some of the Sporadics were actually Quadrantids that were mis-identified by the software.

I also went outside and observed the shower the old fashioned way, by bundling up and sitting outside. I set my alarm for 4:00 am. This was followed with my usual dawdling about whether I really want to get up and go outside. Luckily I didn’t fall back to sleep and was outside and ready to go at 4:30 am. It didn’t take long to realize that the Quadrantids were putting on quite a show with 8 QUAs seen in the 1st 7 minutes.

In total I was able to detect 97 meteors (82 were Quadrantids) in 01h 50m of observing. The limiting magnitude (faintest stars that could be seen) was +5.5. If you lived in a dark rural site, you would have seen many more meteors (perhaps 3 times as many). Brighter urban sites would only have seen the handful of brighter ones.

Observations are still filtering in to the International Meteor Organization. According to their “live” plot of Quadrantid activity, the shower may have been peaking over western North America. In Europe, observers recorded rapidly increasing rates that were already approaching a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 100. ZHR is how many meteors you would see if you lived under dark skies (limiting mag +6.5) and the radiant was overhead. Rates over North America appear to have been in the 125-200 per hour range. These rates are twice as high as expected. The 2009 Quadrantids were definitely one of the better displays of the past few years.

Due to the short, sharp nature of the Quadrantid peak (rates were only at ZHR = ~10-20 24 hours ago) the best is over. A few Quadrantids per hour will be visible per hour tomorrow night.

Below is a movie of all 107 meteors detected by the SALSA camera over Tucson last night. All of the action occurred between 11:30 pm and 6:30 am local time.


Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT COM QUA
TUS  2009-01-03  12h 07m 107  32  0   2   73

TUS – Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG – Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – Total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
COM – Coma Berenicids
QUA – Quadrantids