New Year Quadrantid meteors put on a fine show

For observers of meteor showers, the New Year offers a reliably strong display with the Quadrantids. These meteors appear to radiate from a point in a now defunct constellation from antiquity called Quadrans Muralis, and the radiant lies just north of Bootes.

A Quadrantid meteor speeds through the diamond-shaped constellation of Lyra. Image credit: Paul Sutherland

This year, rather than observe visually, I set my camera on a standard photographic tripod and rattle off a steady flow of 20-second exposures on th emorning of maximum, January 4. My camera was a Fujifilm X-M1 at a setting of 800 ISO, and I was using a fast lens too – a Samyang 12mm at f2. My location was on the East Kent coast in the UK.

Next morning I used Photoshop Elements with its companion program Adobe Bridge to sort through the frames to find my meteors. So far I have found nine Quadrantids and a couple of non-shower meteors (sporadics).

Quadrantid meteor flashes through Bootes. The fuzzy object a little way above the end of the trail is Comet US 10 Catalina. Image credit: Paul Sutherland
Another Quadrantid, between Bootes and Corona Borealis. The bright star is Arcturus. Image credit: Paul Sutherland
A fainter Quadrantid is visible in the lower part of Lyra, through thin cloud. Bright star is Vega. Image credit: Paul Sutherland
A Quadrantid meteor in Draco, from near the corner of a cropped frame. Image credit: Paul Sutherland
A Quadrantid meteor speeds close to the cluster of stars in Coma Berenices. Image credit: Paul Sutherland
This Quadrantid meteor appears foreshortened because it appeared very close to the radiant and so was coming almost head-on. Image credit: Paul Sutherland
A bright Quadrantid flashes just above the head of Draco. Image credit: Paul Sutherland
A Quadrantid through thin cloud. Image credit: Paul Sutherland

I also used a piece of software called Star Trails on my Mac to stitch all the frames together into a movie, and you can see that on YouTube. It is best viewed full-screen.

See if you can spot any of the meteors – and don’t get fooled by the very may aircraft trails. Meteor trails are gone in a flash since each was only caught in a single one of the nearly 750 individual images.

★ Keep up with space news and observing tips. Click here to sign up for alerts to our latest reports. No spam ever - we promise!