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One of the best of the annual meteor showers, the Quadrantids, makes its return from 1st to 6th January. However, maximum activity of the shower is expected in a very narrow time frame of a few hours centred around 4:00 am on the morning of 4th January with up to 100 shooting stars per hour visible under ideal conditions.

The Moon, however, will be rather bright being about three days before full and will thus make it difficult to observe the fainter meteors. Quadrantids are usually bluish or greenish and during peak activity seem to radiate from the constellation Bootes, the modern counterpart of the now-defunct constellation Quadrans Muralis, lying beyond the end of the handle of the Plough.

Earlier this month, Peter Jenniskens of the NASA Ames Research Center in California, USA pointed out that the source for the Quadrantids might be a recently discovered asteroid, or inert comet, 2003 EH1. EH1 was discovered by B A Skiff using the 59cm LONEOS automatic telescope at the Lowell Observatory on 6 March this year. However, further observations of this object will be required to confirm its possible link with the Quadrantids.

For Northern Ireland observers, the constellation of Bootes will be high in the northeast shortly before dawn on 4th January. Observers are advised to wrap up in plenty of layers of warm clothing and view from a dark, preferably elevated, site. The shooting stars may appear in almost any part of the sky. Try to view the sky with your back to the Moon, or from within the shadow of a building.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfarm.ac.uk; Website: http://star.arm.ac.uk/

See also:
Gary Kronk's Site

Sky map for 0400 GMT January 4th 2004 at Armagh
from the excellent Heavens Above Site.

Last Revised: 2003 December 18th
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