DR. SKY BLOG

Keep your eyes peeled for Ursid, Quadrantid meteor showers

Dec 9, 2020, 2:00 PM

With sincere wishes for a happy holiday, a Merry Christmas and a great 2021, we find one more gift from the heavens – a meteor shower to end the year!

Get set for the annual Ursid meteor shower, which will peak on the evening of Dec. 21 and into the next day.

The radiant or point in the sky in which all these meteors come from is easy to locate, as long as you have a clear view of the northern sky.

Look due north for the North Star (Polaris). This is located some 32 degrees high in the sky. The Ursid meteors will come from this general direction, as the radiant point is in the sky all night and does not set.

The Ursids, as with most meteor showers, are debris from the tails of comets and this shower is thought to be produced by debris from Comet 8P/Tuttle, which was discovered Jan. 5, 1858.

Here is a graphic of the radiant of the Ursid meteor shower.

Here are some great tips on how to photograph a meteor shower.

Here is a detailed history of the Ursid shower.

The comet is thought to be a contact binary, meaning that it either has two lobes attached or the two nuclei are close together.

Don’t forget to begin your solstice sky session with a look to the southwestern sky, as Jupiter and Saturn converge within 0.1 degree, a sight not seen that close since at least 1623!

To begin your meteor search, look to the northern sky just after sunset Dec. 21 and with a clear sky and limited moonlight, you may get to see 10 meteors per hour.

All these meteors are as small as beach sand and some are pebble-sized debris, traveling upwards of 50,000 mph.

If we look into 2021 for what is in store for meteor showers, get set for one of the most amazing showers of the new year.

I am referring to the annual Quadrantid meteor shower, which will peak on the early Jan. 4 at around 2 a.m. Arizona time.

For this shower in 2021, the moon will be very bright, just after its full phase of December 2020, the full cold moon.

To view it, you need a clear sky and a good view of the northeastern sky. The meteors come from a region of the sky just below the tail of the Big Dipper.

There are some amazing meteor showers in store for 2021 – here is a listing of what you can expect to see.

Some lucky observers get to see bright fireball type meteors, which are known in the astronomy world as bolides.

For a meteor to be classified as a fireball or bolide, the object needs to be at least a bright as minus 14 in magnitude, a full moon is considered minus 12 on the magnitude scale. This is an object brighter than a full moon and one that, at times, explodes in midair!

This is a typical bolide.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

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Keep your eyes peeled for Ursid, Quadrantid meteor showers