Ready for the arrival of the Quadrantids, the shooting stars of the beginning of the year?

Ready for the arrival of the Quadrantids, the shooting stars of the beginning of the year?

The peak of the shooting stars is expected for the daytime hours of January 3rd. The best times to observe them, therefore, will be between the nights of 2-3 and 3-4 January

(Photo: Pixabay) We are about to leave behind a difficult year. And to welcome us in 2021, illuminating the first nights of January, come the Quadrantids shooting stars, one of the largest meteor showers of the year. The new year, therefore, will begin in great style also because with them there will be another astronomical event: on January 2 at 2 pm (Italian time) the Earth will reach the minimum distance from the Sun (it will therefore be at perihelion), equal to approximately 147 million kilometers. Here, then, how not to miss the spectacles of the sky in January.

Quadrantids shooting stars are also called Bootids, as they seem to radiate from an area that is about ten degrees north of the constellation of Boote . Unfortunately this year their peak of activity, estimated at 100 meteors per hour, is scheduled for the daytime hours of January 3. This phase of intense activity will last around ten hours, but the show can still be admired: we will have to content ourselves with observing them between the night of 2 and 3 and that between 3 and 4 January, in both cases outside the maximum peak.

"In our country from evening twilight to midnight the radiant is very low, almost tangent to the horizon, consequently the number of observable meteors is extremely reduced, and only from midnight to dawn, gradually that the radiant rises more and more in height and therefore increases the frequency, it becomes convenient to observe them ”, advises the Italian Amateur Astronomers Union (Uai). From central-northern Italy, the radiant is visible all night, but from sunset to midnight it is too low to observe shooting stars. "For lower latitudes (roughly Naples) the observation becomes even less easy, since the radiant turns out to set around 20h and then rise again shortly after", the experts specify.

In addition to the Quadrantids shooting stars, there will also be other minor meteor showers. Among these, the active ones far from the full moon of January 28, that is the rho Geminids, between 7/8 January, the delta Cancrids and the alpha Canis Minoris between the 16/17 January and, finally, the alpha Hydrids, between on 18/19 January. Furthermore, after the Great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on 21 December last, during the next month the two giants will practically no longer be observable and will leave the scene to Mercury, which will become visible again in the early hours of the night in the first part of the month. . The opportunity to admire it at its best will be on 24 January next, when the planet will set an hour and a half after the Sun. Finally, even if it will be difficult to observe them, because very low on the horizon, the three planets Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn will meet in the constellation of Capricorn around January 10, while only 4 days later they will be in the company of the crescent moon.

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