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How to Observe a Stream of Shooting Stars from the Quadrantids

How to Observe a Stream of Shooting Stars from the Quadrantids

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The Quadrantids, one of the most active streams of shooting stars, will reach their peak in 2024. But the timing couldn't be worse.

FRANKFURT – With the beginning of 2024, one of the most active meteor streams awaits us: the Quadrantids. It becomes active from December 28th and reaches maximum on January 4th. This peak is very impressive and can be compared to the maximum of Perseids or Gemini, where the number of shooting stars is about 100 meteors per hour.

However, stargazers should temper their expectations. Because there is disappointing news for the Quadrantids in 2024: the maximum meteor flux will be reached on January 4, 2024 around 10 AM CET – at a time when it is already too bright to observe meteors in the sky. Because the peak of the Quadrantids is so sharp and short-lived, there is a chance of seeing some meteors before sunrise – but the maximum is unlikely to be seen in Europe.

Stream Shooting Star League
From December 28th to January 12th
January 4, 2024 around 10am CET
About 80 in 2024
Source: International Meteorological Organization (IMO)

Shooting stars streak from the tetrads across the sky in early January

However, it is useful to take a look at the sky in the days before and after the peak. During a meteor shower, more meteors are generally visible. The January sky also offers other highlights – such as the stunning constellation Orion or the planets Venus, Jupiter and Mercury. To observe the tetrads, you should look east in the second half of the night. The radiant, the point in the sky from which meteors appear to stream, does not rise there until after midnight.

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Although the chances of seeing the Quadrantid meteors in 2024 are slim, the meteor shower is still spectacular. It takes its name from the Wall Quadrant, or so-called radiant, constellation. However, this constellation can no longer be found in the sky today – it has been combined into the Bear Keeper constellation (Latin: Bootes). This is why shooting stars are sometimes called “bootids.”

Tetrads/butides are caused by an asteroid

The formation of the stream of falling quadrupedal stars is quite captivating: for a long time it was not clear which celestial bodies were responsible for the meteors. Most regular meteor showers are caused by a comet: it leaves a trail of dust in its orbit around the Sun, which the Earth passes through every year. Dust particles penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and produce the glow of meteors. Some meteor showers are also caused by asteroids.

Shooting stars in the night sky over Tenerife.  (archive photo)
Shooting stars in the night sky over Tenerife. (Archive photo) © imago/Leemage

The celestial body responsible for the Quadrantids was only discovered in 2003: since then, asteroid 2003 EH1 has been considered the origin of the meteor stream. According to the analysis, they are believed to be the inactive remains of the nucleus of a much larger comet that has decayed. While streams of shooting stars like Geminis and Perseids have long been known, records of the Quadrantids have only existed since the 19th century. (unpaid bill)

The editor wrote this article and then used an AI language model to improve at her own discretion. All information has been carefully checked. Find out more about our AI principles here.