comets-book

You can now buy the recently released book, Fall of a Thousand Suns: How Near Misses and Comet Impacts affected the Religious Beliefs of our Ancestors. It is available through iBooks and Amazon.

 

This website only lists information on modern-day comets and meteor showers. The book, however, thoroughly investigates how specific ancient impacts and near misses changed religious beliefs around the world.

Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Quadrantid Meteor Shower

 

 

The Discovery of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Like all meteor showers, the Quadrantids is named after the constellation, or star, from which the meteors after to radiate. However, modern star maps do not detail any star close to this name. You'd have to spiral back in time to 1795 when French astronomer, Jerome Lalande, created a constellation known as Quadrans Muralis. In 1922 Quadrans Muralis was removed from the star map when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) determined its 88 official constellations that are still in use today. Many of the stars in Quadrans Muralis became part of Bootes.

 

Since Bootes already had a meteor shower associated with it, the June Bootids, the Quadrantids retained their name.

 

 

 

 

The Parent Body of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The object that produced the Quadrantid Meteor Shower remains a mystery. It is the only large meteor shower without a definitive parent body.

 

The first candidate was the Great Comet of 1491 (C/1491 B1). In 1979, Hasegawa suggested that the Quadrantids was the debris field left by a now-lost comet. This comet was first observed and recorded in late January of 1491 by Chinese, Korean and Japanese astronomers. It was first observed in Cygnus by Chinese astronomers, was in the middle of Pegasus on January 10, and Cetus by January 22 (Ho, 1962). Its been suggested that the Great Comet of 1491 was a Jupiter-Family Comet that was perturbed in the mid-17th century into a much longer orbit (Williams, I. P. & Wu, Z. D., 1993). Some astrophysicists suggest that C/1491 B1 lost its ability to shed material and is known today as asteroid 2003 EH1 (2009 Lee, Yang, Park). If the parent object of the Quadrantids proves to be 2003 EH1, it would make it only the second meteor shower known to have been caused by a comet that lost its ability to shed material and is now classified as asteroid. The Geminids are the only other meteor shower known to have an asteroid (3200 Phaethon) as its parent body.

 

According to astrophysicists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, C/1491 B1 may have come within 0.0094 AU of Earth. At roughly four times the average distance between Earth and the Moon, 0.0094 AU would make C/1491 B1 the closest approach of any known comet to Earth.

 

The second candidate as a parent body for the Quadrantid Meteor Shower is Comet Machholz (Babadzhanov and Obrubov, 1992). These two astrophysicists produced a meteor stream from Comet Machholz 7,500 years ago that could explain the Quadrantids and seven other meteor showers.

 

 

 

When are the Quadrantids visible?

Celebrate the New Year and get ready for the Quadrantid Meteor Shower! It is usually the most intense meteor shower until the Perseid Meteor Shower in August. The Quadrantids can be observed on January 2 and January 3. Its peak usually occurs on January 3, and only for a few hours. In one night, the shower can go from no visible meteors to 20-30 meteors an hour. The radiant of the Quadrantids lies between the handle of the Big Dipper and Draco.

 

 

Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Radiant of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Credit: Stellarium with radiant by Kevin Curran

 

 

 

Did meteorites kill 10,000 Chinese People in 1490?

In early 1490, possibly on April 4, meteors appears to have burst in the atmosphere and claimed many lives in China. One account claims, "Stones fell like rain in the Ch'ing-yang district. The larger ones were 4 to 5 catties (around 1.5 kilograms), and the smaller ones were 2 to 3 catties (around 1 kg). Numerous stones rained in Ch'ing-yang. Their sizes were all different. The larger ones were like goose's eggs and the smaller ones were like water-chestnuts. More than 10,000 people were struck dead. All of the people in the city fled to other places."

 

The History of Ming claims that stones of various sizes fell from the sky. "[The larger ones were] as big as a goose egg, and the small ones were the size of the fruit of an aquatic plant". The date for this event, according to the History of Ming, was the third month of the lunar calendar. The date could be anywhere from March 21 to April 19, 1490 on the Gregorian calendar.

 

The last great Australian tsunami also occurred in approximately 1500 CE, according to radiocarbon dating. Are the two events related?