January is best known for the Quadrantids, which have the potential of being the best shower of the year. Unfortunately this shower is short lived and occurs during some of the worst weather in the northern hemisphere. Due to the high northern declination (celestial latitude) and short summer nights, little of this activity can be seen south of the equator. There are many very minor showers active throughout the month. Unfortunately most of these produce less than 1 shower member per hour and do not add much to the overall activity total. Activity gets interesting as seen from the southern hemisphere as ill-defined radiants in Vela, Carina, and Crux become active this month.
During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Wednesday January 1st. At this time the moon will lie near the sun and will be invisible at night. This weekend the waning crescent moon will rise during the late morning hours and should not interfere with meteor observing. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 4 for observers located in the northern hemisphere and 3 for those viewing south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 16 for observers in the northern hemisphere and 10 for observers situated south of the equator.
During this period the moon reaches its last quarter phase on Wednesday December 25th. At this time the moon will lie 90 degrees west of the sun and will rise near midnight local standard time (LST). This weekend the waning gibbous moon will rise during the evening hours and will greatly interfere with any attempt at viewing meteor activity during the remainder of the night. As the Christmas holiday passes the moon becomes less of a nuisance and successful observations may be obtained. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 3 for observers located in the northern hemisphere and 2 for those viewing south of the equator.
No matter where you live, the first half of December provides some of the best meteor activity of the year. In the northern hemisphere the sporadic rates are still strong plus you can also count on strong activity from the Geminids, which peak on December 13. There are also several minor radiants that add a few meteors each hour. All of these centers of activity are located high in the sky during the early morning hours this time of year. Much of the activity mentioned above can also be seen from the southern hemisphere. While the sporadic rates are not as strong as those seen from the north, they are stronger than the previous months and heading for a maximum in February.
During this period the moon reaches its last quarter phase on Monday November 25th. At this time the half-illuminated moon will lie 90 degrees west of the sun and will rise near midnight local standard time as seen from mid-northern latitudes. This weekend and Monday, the moon will interfere with morning observations. This can be overcome if you have transparent skies and you face away from the moon. The evening hours are free of moonlight but produce less activity than after midnight. As the week progresses, the waning crescent moon will rise later each night. By the end of the period it will not be much of a factor as it will be thin and will only rise just before the start of dawn.