Skymap of the Quandrantid meteor shower. Click to enlarge.

  • Gary W. Kronk's Comets & Meteor Showers: The Quadrantids
  • Mystery Meteors from an Extinct Constellation: the Quadrantids
  • Quadrantids 2003


    What's Up in Space -- 1 Jan 2003


    The annual Quadrantid meteor shower will soon be here. It's expected to peak during the few hours around 23:00 UT (6 p.m. EST) on Jan. 3, 2003. Sky watchers in Asia and eastern Europe are favored for this year's brief display of perhaps 100 meteors per hour.


    (Animated gif, 397 kB)

    4 januari 2002

    Arjen en Jan l'Amie maakten op 3 januari 2002 dit filmpje van een Quadrantide (Bo÷tide) meteoor in Gemini. Gebruikte apparatuur: Ikegami CCD-camera en een 50 mm lens, opname met een time-lapse videorecorder.


    What's Up in Space -- 4 Jan 2002


    The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaked on Thursday, January 3rd. As expected, visual observers saw, at best, a modest display (10 or so per hour); the Quadrantids were overwhelmed this year by a glaring nearly-full Moon. Radio meteor listeners, however, recorded plenty of "pings" -- that is, signals from radio stations reflected by ionized meteor trails. It was a good year to listen to the Quadrantids!

    Above: Engineer Stan Nelson of Roswell, NM,
    recorded more than 70 radio echoes per hour during the
    Quadrantid maximum.


    What's Up in Space -- 2 Jan 2002


    The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaks this year on January 3rd. For a few hours around 18:00 UT (during daylight hours in the Americas) shooting stars will stream out of the constellation Bo÷tes in the northern sky. Pre-dawn observers in Hawaii and east Asia will have the best view of the outburst. Early-evening sky watchers in Europe might see it, too. This year's display will be diminished by glare from the nearly-full Moon. Nevertheless, well-placed spotters will likely see a dozen or so bright meteors each hour during the shower's maximum.

    Above: The northern sky on Jan. 3, 2001 at 4 a.m. local
    time as viewed by an observer at mid-Northern latitudes.
    The red dot is the Quadrantid radiant.

    The Quadrantids are named after Quadrans Muralis, a 19th century constellation no longer found in star atlases. The shower's radiant is in the modern constellation Bootes. Like the extinct constellation Quadrans Muralis, the cometary parent of the Quadrantid shower might also be long-dead. Astronomers have searched for a comet that shares the orbit of the Quadrantid debris stream, but found nothing. Perhaps it completely disintegrated long ago or remains undiscovered.

    NASA Space Science News for Jan 1, 2000

    During the 1999 Leonid meteor shower, astronomers watching the Moon saw flashes caused by meteorites striking the lunar surface. It was the first time such observations had ever been made. Another opportunity for amateur astronomers to watch and record lunar meteorite impacts may be just around the corner, on Jan. 4, 2000, when the Quadrantid meteor shower reaches its peak.



    Every year the Quadrantid meteor shower produces a strong display lasting only a few hours. This year the peak is expected on January 4th at 5:29 Universal Time (12:29 a.m. EST) This timing is optimal for meteor watchers in western Europe and eastern North America. Wherever you are, Quadrantid-watching time generally runs from about 2 a.m. local time to dawn, but East Coasters may want to be out there around midnight. Later in the night, the shower's radiant (located halfway from the end of the Big Dipper's handle to the head of Draco) is well up in the northeastern sky. The farther north you are the better. You may see 60 or more meteors per hour under ideal sky conditions. With the Moon a thin crescent, it will be well out of the way. The Quadrantids are the only major annual shower whose source object is unknown. According to recent studies, the meteoroid stream probably originated only about 500 years ago from a now-inactive comet that is currently masquerading as an Earth-crossing asteroid in a high-inclination orbit.

    Quadrantids to Light the New Year's Sky

    The Quadrantid meteor shower will reach maximum activity Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning for meteor enthusiasts across the world. While this display can provide very high rates for some, most observers will witness 25-50 Quadrantids per hour from rural locations on Tuesday morning January 4. This shower has a sharp peak lasting only a few hours at best. The radiant is located at 15:20 +49, which places it in Northern Bootes near the borders of the constellations Hercules and Draco. This part of the sky lies low in the northwest at dusk and reaches its lowest point in the sky near 8pm local time. After hugging the northeast horizon during the late evening hours the radiant finally begins to gain altitude after midnight and climbs high into the northeastern sky during the late morning. Trying to see any Quadrantid activity before midnight would probably prove futile unless you happen to live in the higher northern latitudes found in Canada or Northern Europe, where the radiant remains well above the horizon the entire night.

    This year's display is predicted to reach maximum activity near 5:00 Universal Time which corresponds to midnight EST and 9pm (January 3) PST. European observers will have the radiant high in their morning skies while those of us on the east coast of North America will have the radiant low in the northeast. Regardless of your location, I would suggest commencing any Quadrantid watch at midnight and watching as long as possible. To see the most activity it would be wise to face at least half way up in the sky anywhere from due north to due east, whichever direction offers the darkest skies. The moon will be a very thin crescent and will not interfere with observing as it rises just before dawn. Be sure to protect yourself from the cold by wearing several layers of clothing and taking breaks when necessary.

    Worthwhile activity from the Quadrantids is limited to the night of maximum activity. The nights before and after maximum activity offer only 1-2 shower members per hour while the remainder of the activity period (January 2-6) offers perhaps only 1-2 shower members per night.

    More detailed information on observing meteor showers can be found on Sky & Telescope's web page at:


    If you get to see this interesting display be sure to let us know your totals at either:


    or my personal email address at:


    Clear Skies and Happy Year 2000!

    Robert Lunsford
    American Meteor Society
    International Meteor Organization

    NASA Space Science News for Dec. 28, 1999

    Y2K Meteor Blast

    One of the most intense and least observed annual meteor showers peaks on the morning of Jan. 4, 2000. The Quadrantids will be the first major meteor display of the New Year.

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