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.