May 28, 2020

AstroEvent of the Week, January 3rd-9th, 2009: The Quadrantids.

The New Year and this weekend kick off with a curious meteor shower; the Quadrantids do not hail from a modern constellation. They are instead a reference to the extinct constellation Quandrans Muralis, which occupied the present day location of the intersections of the constellations Boötes, Hercules, and Draco.

Some programs, such as Meteoracle, refer to them simply as the “Bootids”. This shower is known to produce respectable rates of up to 60-100 meteors per hour. Check it out if the skies are clear on the mornings of Saturday-Sunday, January 3rd & 4th. The Moon will be reaching 1st quarter this weekend, and thus be safely out of the way in the AM hours. The comet that produces the Quadrantids remains a mystery, and it is thought that this is a very old stream. Possibly, the ancient comet succumbed to capture in the inner solar system by Jupiter, and was subsequently destroyed. Models show this stream will no longer intersect the Earth’s path come 2400 A.D.

What the heck is a Quandrans Muralis? It’s our term of the week! This now defunct constellation, the “Mural Quadrant” was created by the French astronomer Joseph Jerome le Francais de La Lande in the early 1800′s and existed for about a century between Boötes and Ursa Major. It’s only modern day legacy is the Quadrantid meteors, first noted by Antonio Brucalassi in January, 1825.


  1. Mark Rice says:

    Was just outside 8pm in Freehold, New Jersey…Freezing cold, but clear as could be…I unreal meteor fell right in front of me…I did not even know about this Quadrantids shower till I looked it up…really cool!!

  2. webmaster says:

    It very well could have been; we saw several dozen this morning from the Tampa, Florida area. We had the enviable location of viewing in January in shorts and t-shirts!

  3. John T Mosher says:

    January 3, 2009 Quadrantid Meteor Shower from Stafford, VA – I started viewing at 4:30am EST and saw well over 100 the first hour. One was particularly bright and had a persistant trail. I am pretty sure it was a Quadrantid and not just a sporadic meteor. I was babysitting a young puppy and was not able to spend much time trying to identify which were sporadic and which were actual Quadrantids. After 5:30am the skies became too bright with the astronomical twilight so my rates became lower but I am anxious to see what folks on the West Coast were able to see since the predicted peak was after sunrise here on the East Coast. After 4:40am it seemed like several waves of meteors would have rates of 8 to 10 per minute and then would slow down for a few minutes before another wave would hit. Most were dim but it was a very enjoyable shower.

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