January 06, 2022
The new year started off with a fiery explosion as the Quadrantids meteor shower peaked between 3 and 4 January. If you missed this event, don’t despair as there’s another spectacular stargazing experience you can treat your eyes to in the night sky.
Observing Mercury is a rare sight because it’s usually difficult to spot even though at its brightest it’s 1.9 times brighter than Sirius (the brightest star in our sky). The reason is due to the planet’s proximity to the Sun at 36 million miles away, which causes an intense glare that blocks it from our view for most of the year.
However, on 7 January, stargazers have a window of opportunity to view Mercury as it swings away from the Sun, reaching the greatest eastern elongation or separation from the bright hot star. It will shine radiantly in the evening sky with a yellowish hue at a magnitude of -0.6.
If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, Mercury is located to the left of the brightest planet in our Solar System, Venus, and is best viewed 30 minutes after sunset using a telescope or binoculars. It’ll be dimmer than Venus and may take a while to notice, but your patience will pay off as this is a great opportunity to spot both planets in one view as you start the new year!
While you’re getting ready to scan the skies for Mercury, here are some interesting facts about this little planet:
The year’s first meteor shower, the Quadrantids, is regarded as one of the strongest and consistent meteor showers, but it is not as bright or long-lasting as the Perseids or Geminids showers. Even so, it is still a sight to behold as the meteors, made up of pieces of debris, enter our planet at high speeds of up to 70 kilometres per second, heating up into bright fireballs and exploding into streaks of light as it vaporises. On a clear night, the Quadrantids can hit a maximum rate of an incredible 120 meteors per hour!
The spectacular meteor shower typically peaks between 3 and 4 January for only a few hours, but it can still be seen until the middle of the month.
Did you manage to observe the peak of this wondrous event? If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, your best view would’ve been in an open area with a wide view of the sky, away from urban areas, littered with city lights and other sources of light pollution.
For those who missed it, don’t worry as there are plenty of other meteor showers to keep your eye on this year. All you have to do is follow us on social media to stay updated.
Here are some interesting facts about the Quadrantids:
In 2022 astronomy enthusiasts are in for a treat as the universe shows off its glorious wonders. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay posted on captivating natural occurrences taking place in the world beyond our own.
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