Friday, January 2, 2015

Invasion of the Quadrantids!

It'll be too cloudy where I am to observe this meteor shower -- unless I have the misfortune of being underneath one big enough to make it through the atmosphere -- but those of you with clear skies may notice a few extra streaks of light as you turn your eyes heavenward.

As this story at notes, the Quadrantids are the only remaining sign that there used to be a constellation called Quadrans Muralis. But almost discovering Neptune and teaching astronomy at the Collège de France for 46 years doesn't earn you that much leeway, so Jérôme Lalande's Quadrans became a part of Boötes when constellations were standardized in 1922.

Lalande may have had the last laugh, though, because meteors are identified with the congregation that provides their "origin point," or the backdrop of their apparent direction of approach. So the Boötes meteors earn the rather plain and lumpish name Bootids, while lost Quadrans Muralis gives us the exotic (and Syfy Channel-ready) Quadrantids.

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