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Celestial fireworks to adorn skies

india Updated: Jan 02, 2007 22:27 IST
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With the beginning of the New Year amateur astronomers and star gazers must be ready for the celestial display of the blue-green meteors 'Quadrantids' in the night of January 3 and early hours of January 4.

Typically one might observe about 120 meteors per hour at peak, which is considered high for meteor shower activity, says Nehru Planetarium Director N Rathnasree.

The full moon and mist can act as spoilers.

Rathnasree says "The visibility may lessen in the city areas where fewer number of the meteors and only the brighter ones may be seen in the glare of the moon and the mist."

"The Quadrantids will be better viewed in the dark skies outside the city limits particularly in the southern parts of the country."

The fast moving Quadrantids which move at the speed of around 10 to 30 kilometre per second are an annual feature around January 3 and can be seen all over the country.

The peak of the showers when the maximum number of meteors shoot across the sky is around 3 am on January 4, though the meteors can be seen from a few days before and after the peak.

Meteor showers are in reality left over dust of a parent body while it orbits the sun, which get pulled by the earth's gravity as earth moves along its own orbit and crosses the orbit of the parent body, Rathnasree said.

The parent body for Qudrantids has been identified as an asteroid in 2003, she said. It is possible that this was a comet in ancient history, which was captured by Jupiter's orbit, and after disintegration is currently an asteroid, she added.

The radiant of these meteors (the one point in the sky to which the path of all the meteors can be traced back) is close to the star Swati in constellation Bootes towards east north east early in the morning.

The odd name Quadrantids has been given to the meteor because of the earlier name of the constellation near which they seemed to come from in the sky known as Quadrans Muralis (the Mural Quadrant) in the 19th century star atlases, she added.

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