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January 3, 2012

Keep Watching the Skies
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:43 PM * 10 comments

The skies should be clear over most of North America tonight. The moon will have set by four in the morning, eastern time, tomorrow. And that’s good, because a brief, but intense, meteor shower will hit, coming out of the north-east (just a little below the handle of the Big Dipper), between 0300 and 0500 zone time tomorrow morning, 04 January 2012.

These are the Quadrantids, what’s left of a comet that broke up around 500 years ago. We’re passing perpendicularly through the debris field, which accounts for both the brevity and the intensity (up to 200 meteors per hour) of the shower.

This timing favors North America with local peak times ranging from 02:30am EST on January 4th to 11:30 PST on January 3rd. The eastern half of North America will be more favorable as the radiant will lie higher in the sky at the time of maximum activity.
Comments on Keep Watching the Skies:
#1 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 08:40 PM:

The sky in the SF Bay area, at least here in the East Bay, is currently clear. Perhaps it will remain so between 11 pm and midnight tonight. I will endeavor to stay awake, to find out. Thank you, Jim.

#2 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 08:43 PM:

Too damn cold here for my thin Georgia blood (windchill this morning was 5 to 10 Fahrenheit), though the skies are certainly clear. Y'all hardier types enjoy!

#3 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 02:30 AM:

Just spent 5 minutes looking, and saw nothing except the Dipper; local fogbank started building while I watched, and a group of higher clouds were moving in, so I decided to bag it. Warm enough so I could stand outside in shirt-sleeves in Seattle (and I hadn't noticed before how high in the sky Polaris is around here!). Thanks for letting me have the chance, even though my results were nil.

#4 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 02:32 AM:

But then, I am a little early -- misread the time first time through....

#5 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 02:38 AM:

Currently overcast here in Portland, and predicted to remain so all night. Typical of Portland; I haven't even gotten to see the Leonids in years.

#6 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 08:26 AM:

didn't see the announcement until this morning, but I've got too many lights locally anyway.

And I'm already short on sleep.... Last night I stubbed my toe ejecting the dog from my bedroom (actually, might have been about the right time for the meteors), looks nasty now, but I don't think it's broken.

#7 ::: Fred Kiesche ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 09:23 AM:

"...02:30am EST on January 4th to 11:30 PST on January 3rd..."

January 5, maybe?

In any case, while walking the K9 and waiting for the bus with my daughter, we saw several (around 6:30 AM). They ranged from a brief streak across part of the sky to one yellowish-green streak that went from the zenith to the horizon. It was cold this morning, but the air was very still, making the "seeing" quite fine!

#8 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 09:43 AM:

#7, no, the dates are correct, they're just in different time zones; 2:30 AM EST is, of course, 11:30 PM PST on the previous day. It's one peak time, rather than a range.

Too cold here by far, even if I had seen this in time; temperatures just before dawn were in the mid-teens.

#9 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 11:18 AM:

For those in the Houston area, there's an opportunity to see the ISS pass in front of the moon around 6:30 this evening.

ISS passes in front of Moon

I'm thinking about trying to image it.

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 09:15 PM:

I saw one about 5am (PST) as I was taking out trash. (Orange streak, low in the west, headed southwest.)

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