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'Mystery' Meteors and New Asteroid Grace the Night Skies
'Mystery' Meteors and New Asteroid Grace the Night Skies
2 Jan 2002

MYSTERY METEORS: Earth is about to enter a stream of dusty space debris that gives rise each year to the Quadrantid meteor shower. In 2002 the Quadrantids will peak during a few-hour period around 1800 UT (10 a.m. PST) on Thursday, January 3rd. The shower peaks during daylight hours over the Americas. Pre-dawn observers in Japan and other Asian countries around the Pacific Rim will have the best view of the outburst. Early-evening sky watchers in Europe might see it, too. This year's display will be diminished by glare from the Moon. Nevertheless, well-placed spotters will likely count a dozen or so bright meteors each hour during the shower's peak.

The Quadrantids are named after Quadrans Muralis, a 19th century constellation no longer found in star atlases. The shower's radiant is in the modern constellation Bootes. Like the extinct constellation Quadrans Muralis, the cometary parent of the Quadrantid shower might also be long-dead. Astronomers have searched for a comet that shares the orbit of the Quadrantid debris stream, but found nothing. Perhaps it completely disintegrated long ago or remains undiscovered.

NEAR-EARTH ASTEROID: A newly discovered near-Earth asteroid named 2001 YB5 will glide by our planet on January 7th, twice as far from Earth as the Moon. The 300-meter wide space rock will brighten to 12th magnitude this weekend, making it a promising target for backyard telescopes equipped with CCD cameras.

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Last Updated: 2 Jan 2002