Starwatch Blog: Quadrantids meteor shower peaks as the Earth is at its closest point to sun


Starwatch Blog for the week of December 30, 2019

This week in the sky, the Sun Perihelion occurs and the Quadrantids meteor shower peaks.

The Sun Perihelion is when Earth is at its closest point to the sun in a calendar year. This year it occurs on January 5th at exactly 2:48 a.m. 

Earth will “only” be around 91 million miles from the sun. This is nearly 3 million miles closer than it is in July! It may seem strange that the Earth is closer to the sun in the winter, and farthest in the summer. But, the distance from the sun does not determine the season, it actually determines the length of the season.

The northern hemisphere winter is the shortest season due to a faster orbit around the sun. Recall Earth’s orbit around the sun is not a perfect circle, it is an elliptical shape. Therefore, it travels a shorter distance when it orbits on the Perihelion side, and travels a longer distance around the sun during the summer months.

The Quadrantids meteor shower peaks on January 4th around 3 a.m. There is a good chance at seeing up to 15-20 meteors per hours and even up to 50-100 meteors per hour is possible. The good news is the moon will be setting early, therefore dark skies will help increase the chances at seeing some of these meteors fly across the sky.

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