The Quadrantid meteor shower has a reputation of being feast or famine. Last night (this morning) was a famine, at least from my partially dark sky in Jarrettsville, MD. Maryland is arguably one of the worst states for dark skies because it is the fifth most densely populated state in the country and all of the major cities are so close together so there’s almost nowhere in the state to go to escape the light pollution from Baltimore or Washington. Without driving four hours to Deep Creek Lake in far western Maryland, Jarrettsville, in northern Harford County one of the best places in the state for dark skies.
However, I did see a handful of meteors from my lawn chair in the 0º wind chilled temperature. I was expecting a lot more, closer the average of about 120 per hour but I did get a privileged glimpse of one of them in my binoculars which was pretty cool! I was using my binos to look at the Bootes constellation which was the radiant point of the shower. I was in the process of moving the view from star to star when one of the meteors shot across my field of view at almost the same speed as I was moving my binos! I got about a one second shot of it before it disintegrated in the atmosphere. That was pretty much the highlight of the night besides running an eskimo lap around the field to keep my body from turning into solid ice.
Now astronomers will have to wait until late April for the next big chance to view another meteor shower, the Lyrrids. A friend of mine suggested to me yesterday that I should take a camping trip to the Monongahela Forest in West Virginia for the Lyrrids which is probably a pretty good idea. Just maybe when it’s a bit more above freezing.
Tonight is the peak of the annual meteor shower known as the Quadrantids, or Quads for short. Viewing this shower is tricky as it occurs during the coldest month and the coldest time of night…between 3 and 6 am. If you are brave enough to wake up extra early and endure the frigid temperature (low of 19) you may be in for a pretty good show. The peak of this shower can give you anywhere from 60 meteors and hour to 200 per hour! It could be well worth it to wake up a couple hours early tomorrow after the moon has set and drink something hot on a lawn chair but I haven’t decided if I’m going to do it or not…I do not like going to bed early :/. But if you think you might be interested in watching this promising shower Sky & Telescope has more info: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/Quadrantid-Meteors-to-Perform-Jan-4th-136154248.html. Don’t forget though, the next major shower isn’t until the Lyrrids in late April so it’s going to be a while before you get another chance. Good luck and stay warm!