January 2, 2012 4:49 PM   Subscribe

Spacedex has well organized worldwide viewing information for meteor showers, like the brief Quadrantids on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are various sources you can follow on twitter, facebook, your phone, etc. for more course information on meteor showers.
posted by jeffburdges (3 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Most of these sites just rehash the basic (but important) information about meteor shower viewing:
- best on moonless night (alas, not this week)
- the later at night you are looking, the better; predawn darkness is best
- stare more or less straight up, and be read to quickly look towards anything moving in your peripheral vision

Check out the International Meteor Organization ( ) for more technical information on the meteor showers.

But to completely BLOW YOUR MIND, look at this NASA paper (PDF, 2.0 MB) from January 2009 that analyzed past Leonid showers and attempted to predict exactly when the November 2009 shower would peak. And by "predict exactly" I mean they plotted the trails of the debris source (for the Leonids that's comet Tempel-Tuttle) in 3D space, charted the path that Earth would take through that space, and attempted to model what time the peak would be. Not just "go outside one of these nights, before dawn", but "go to Asia for this one, because we predict the peak will be at pre-dawn there, and India is best because statistically they will have the least cloud cover". For the 2009 Leonids it was calculated that the year 1466 and year 1533 passages of the comet would be most contributing that year. I'm telling you, look at that PDF.

Except for that one paper, I haven't ever seen any meteor shower reporting that predicts whether a shower will in fact be a storm -- a big peak of meteors, with a ZHR over 1000. I have yet to see an analysis like that again, but every time we have a big meteor shower on the calendar, and a moonless night, I search for one of those analyses in the hope that it'll tell me when is the best time to drive out to the country. I have yet to see a real meteor shower, in years of trying.
posted by intermod at 8:22 PM on January 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's the IMO prediction for the Quantids:

"A sharp maximum is predicted to occur near 0730 Universal Time on the 4th. This corresponds to 02:30 EST and 23:30 PST (January 3rd). This is good timing for viewers located in eastern North America as the radiant will rising above the northeastern horizon. It would even be better if the maximum were a it later as the radiant would be located higher in the sky, producing more activity. Rates will depend on the exact time of maximum and whether the moon is still above the horizon. Assuming the 0730 UT timing is correct, the further one is located in North America, the better. Eastern observers may be able to see 60-75 Quadrantids per hour. If your skies are very clear and dark, allowing you to see faint meteors, your rates could top 100 per hour. Observers located in the western portions of North American will have lower rates ..."
posted by intermod at 8:41 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Twitter's #meteorwatch hashtag may be worth following.

If you spot a fireball (like I did a couple weeks back, a slow-moving multicolored beauty) you can do some citizen science and report it here at AMS's site ... very easy-to-use and well thought-out interface.
posted by Twang at 2:09 AM on January 3, 2012

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