The first appointment of the 2024 astronomy agenda is here. This is the Quadrantids, the first meteor shower of the year in the northern hemisphere and one of the most active, along with the Geminids and Perseids.

The Quadrantid meteor shower is visible between December 28 and January 12, but it is around January 3 when its activity rate increases considerably, reaching 120 meteors per hour at speeds of 41 kilometers per hour. second.

In 2024, the time of maximum activity occurs during the early hours of Wednesday, January 3, to Thursday, the 4th. Although the Quadrantids appear to come from the constellation Bootes, the celestial flashes can be seen anywhere in the sky.

However, this year will not be especially good for contemplating the Quadrantids. “On the one hand,” they point out from the National Astronomical Observatory (OAN), “we have the moment of maximum activity of the Quadrantids, which this year will occur in a period of a few hours centered around 10 hours of official peninsular time of the “January 4, so morning twilight will cover much of the maximum.” This is a short peak of activity compared to the two days that other meteor showers tend to have.

Experts add a second element that makes observing the quadrantids difficult, the Moon, which is in its last quarter phase. This means that our satellite appears high in the sky in the hours close to sunrise, so its light can make it difficult to observe the faintest meteors.

For many years the origin of the Quadrantids was a real mystery. However, as Rafael Bachiller, astronomer and director of the National Astronomical Observatory, explains, in 2003, the Dutch-American astronomer Peter Jenniskens identified the body from which this meteor shower arose: an asteroid from the Amor group (close to Earth) called ‘2003 EH1’.

In turn, this asteroid could be the remnant of an extinct comet: C/1490 Y1, whose disintegration was observed from East Asia in the spring of the year 1490, while creating a spectacular meteor shower. However, the fact that the disintegration was seen in spring and the Quadrantids occurred in January means that the precise relationship between this comet, the asteroid and the Quadrantids remains somewhat uncertain, Bachiller concludes.

Whatever the origin, the Earth is currently passing through a ring populated with the fragments supposedly detached from the asteroid 2003 EH1, which upon coming into contact with the Earth’s atmosphere burn up, creating those luminous glows that are known as shooting stars.

The place where the quadrantids seem to come from is located north of the constellation of Bootes (the Boyero), near the tail of the Big Dipper. The name of the quadrantids comes from the constellation Quadrans Muralis, named by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795, but currently not recognized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Witnessing the spectacle of the Quadrantids does not require much preparation or tools, since they can be observed from any place where you can see the dark sky free of light pollution.

It is recommended that the chosen place be free of obstacles to the view, such as trees, mountains or buildings, and direct your gaze in the opposite direction to the Moon. The use of instruments such as binoculars is not recommended, as they limit the field of vision and meteors can be detected throughout the sky. The best thing is to lie down, wait for your eyes to get used to the darkness and enjoy.