Press Release

NASA Scientists Fly Over Arctic to Study New Year Meteor Shower

By SpaceRef Editor
December 30, 2007
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NASA Scientists Fly Over Arctic to Study New Year Meteor Shower

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. – NASA scientists and astronomers will take to the skies in the afternoon of Jan. 3 to observe nature’s New Year’s celebration: the Quadrantid meteor shower.

Scientists believe this could be the most brilliant meteor shower in 2008 with over 100 visible meteors per hour at its peak. Best viewing times with the highest meteor rates are expected to be in either the late evening of Jan. 3 over Europe and western Asia or the early morning of Jan. 4 over the eastern United States.

“We will fly to the North Pole and back to compensate for Earth’s rotation and to keep the stream in view throughout the flight,” said Peter Jenniskens, a principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., who also works for the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif. A Gulfstream V aircraft will take off from San Jose, Calif., to fly scientists and their instruments for 10 continuous hours over the Arctic and back to San Jose. The primary goal of the lengthy airborne mission is to observe the Quadrantid meteor shower in ideal and virtually unchanging conditions far above light pollution and clouds to determine when it peaks and how the stream is dispersed.

The Quadrantid meteor shower begins every year about Jan. 1 and lasts for just under a week. Jenniskens theorizes the Quadrantids were formed 500 years ago in a breakup event involving a near-Earth asteroid, 2003 EH1, and a comet observed in China in 1491, C/1490 Y1. Scientists will use their observations to better understand how and when it originated and how much Jupiter’s immense gravitational pull influences the Quadrantid’s orbit. They hope to use the information they gather to make more precise predictions of when future Quadrantid showers will peak.

WHAT: NASA scientists will fly in a Gulfstream V, similar to the plane used to observe the Aurigid meteor shower Sept. 1, 2007, to measure the Quadrantid meteor shower.

WHEN: Approximately 4:30 p.m., Jan. 3 to approximately 2 a.m. PST, Jan. 4.

WHO: Peter Jenniskens, principal investigator from NASA’s Ames Research Center and SETI Institute will be available Jan. 2 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. PST for interviews. To schedule an interview, please contact Rachel Prucey, Ames public affairs specialist, at (650) 604-0643 before 12 p.m. PST, Dec. 31, 2007.

WHERE: A Gulfstream V will take off from the Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Jose, Calif. at approximately 4:30 p.m. PST, Jan. 3, and will fly to the Arctic and back, returning to San Jose at approximately 2 a.m. PST, Jan. 4 to complete the mission.

For more information about the Quadrantid Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign, visit:

To learn more about how to observe the Quadrantids, visit: For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.