Home > Stargazing > Quadrantids Meteor Shower 2011: What You Might See

Quadrantids Meteor Shower 2011: What You Might See

The first meteor shower of 2011 is the Quadrantids, the peak of which falls on the night of the 03/04 January 2011. The Quadrantids shower has one of the highest predicted hourly rates of all meteor showers, comparable to the two great annual showers, the Perseids and the Geminids, occurring in August and Deember respectively. However unlike the Perseids and Geminids, the Quadrantids peak is very narrow, occurring over just a few short hours.  (You can read the IMO’s rather technical summary of the 2011 Quadrantids here: http://www.imo.net/calendar/2011#qua)

The predicted Zenith Hourly Rate (see my previous post about ZHR and what it actually means here) for the Quadrantids is around 120. The narrow peak is predicted to occur some time between 2100 on 3 January and 0600  on 4 January 2011, however the radiant of the shower – the now-defunct constellation Quadrans Muralis – is very low in the evening hours, rising higher towards dawn, and so the best viewing times are later in this run, just before dawn.

The radiant will rise due N and get to its highest before dawn due E, so look roughly in a NE direction to maximise your chance of seeing some Quadrantids. As always with meteor showers, don’t use binoculars or a telescope – your naked eyes are best. One very useful bit of equipment is a reclining deck chair, which makes observing so much more comfortable!

Let’s use the equation relating ZHR to actual observations of meteors to work out how many Quadrantids you might see:

Actual Hourly Rate = (ZHR x sin(h))/((1/(1-k)) x 2^(6.5-m)) where

h = the height of the radiant above the horizon

k = fraction of the sky covered in cloud

m = limiting magnitude

In the case of the 2011 Quadrantids, if observed from the UK, h = 15 degrees at 2100, rising to 25 degrees at midnight, 40 degrees at 0300, and 65 degrees at 0600. Let’s assume you have clear skies (haha) with k = 0.

The number of Quadrantids you can expect to see from a variety of observing sites, at various times throughout the night, is as follows:

For very light polluted sites, such as city centres, m = 3, and therefore you can expect to see between 3 and 10 meteors per hour at the peak, depending on when it occurs.

In suburban skies near a city or town centre m = 4, and you’ll see between 5 and 20 meteors per hour at the peak, depending on when it occurs.

In rural skies where m = 5, you’ll see between 11 and 38 meteors per hour at the peak, depending on when it occurs.

Under very dark skies, where m = 6.5 (i.e. where there is no or negligible effect of light pollution, like in Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park) you’ll see anywhere between 31 and 109 meteors per hour at the peak, depending on when it occurs.

Remember, all of these numbers assume perfectly clear skies. If half your sky is cloudy, cut these numbers in half!

Also remember that it depends when the peak occurs. Due to the rather narrow peak, if you observe at 2100 on 3 January you may see very few if the peak doesn’t occur until 0600. Still, it’s very much worth a look, just in case!

How many Quadrantid meteors will I see?

Where are you observing from? Limiting magnitude Number of Quadrantids per hour if peak occurs at 2100
Number of Quadrantids per hour if peak occurs at 0000 Number of Quadrantids per hour if peak occurs at 0300 Number of Quadrantids per hour if peak occurs at 0600
Very light polluted city centre 3 3 5 7 10
Suburban Site 4 5 9 14 20
Rural Site 5 11 18 27 38
Dark Sky Site 6.5 31 50 77 109
  1. January 1, 2011 at 16:00

    Hi there! Great post! I would just like to ask your
    reference for that table which includes the limiting magnitude and
    the number of meteors that could be seen per hour. Thanks! Clear
    skies! Raven

    • January 1, 2011 at 19:53

      Hi Raven,

      Thanks for the compliments. I constructed the table myself using the data from the IMO and using alt estimates of the radiant based on observing in the UK at the times above. If you intend the table to be used elsewhere in the world (the Philipines) then you’d need to recalculate.

      Can I also please ask that you cite me directly within your post for the sections you have used from my blog? I’m happy for you to use them, but you could perhaps put a name check and link back within the body of the post, rather than at the end.



  2. January 1, 2011 at 23:13

    Thank you for the information. I will do a recalculation for the table using that as a guide.

    I apologize for the improper citations. Please rest assured that I will edit the blog post to place the necessary credits.

    Clear skies!


  3. mark
    January 2, 2011 at 02:55

    i live in guam will i be able to see Quadrantids?

    • January 2, 2011 at 20:40

      You’re GMT+10 which means the peak will occur some time between 0700 and 1600 your time, which is daytime, so unfortunately you’ll probably miss them

  4. karinkus
    January 4, 2012 at 07:21

    just accidentally saw the quadrantis as I was letting in the cat at 6am> have since been standing in the garden watching and have seen about 25 in an hour-amazing- just clouding over now-but I am hooked

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