The year’s first meteor shower may be a great one! The Quadrantid Meteor Shower is set to peak on January 3rd, 19:30 a.m. Universal time (2:30 p.m. EST). Although the best viewing will occur in northern Asia, clear skies and a new moon should result in fine viewing across the Northern Hemisphere. For best viewing , look up at 11 p.m. or later, January 3rd or 4th, your local time.
The Quadrantid Meteor Shower has been known to rival the popular Perseids and Geminids, in terms of number of meteors per hour. However, unlike those showers, during which meteors are sometimes visible for days, the window of time in which to view meteors is fairly brief.
What is a meteor shower?
Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) The Quadrantids are a relatively recent discovery (1830). Their name comes from a constellation that no longer exists on modern star charts. Their namesake, “The Mural Quadrant” has gone the way of other obscure and somewhat whimsical star patterns at one time known as “The Printing Office” and the “Northern Fly”.
How to watch the Quadrantid Meteor Shower
The Quadrantids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.
Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can.
A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Quadrantids.
This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Quadrantids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.
Photo: Photos by Kev