The first meteor shower of the year will light up the skies tonight, producing more than 100 shooting stars per hour. The Quadrantids are most active during their peak which will last for just a few hours leading up until dawn. By comparison, most meteor showers have a peak that lasts about two days.
“The reason the peak is so short is due to the shower’s thin stream of particles and the fact that the Earth crosses the stream at a perpendicular angle,” explained NASA.
The Quadrantid shower is known for its “fireballs,” which appear as brilliant explosions that leave behind long-lasting trails. According to astronomers, this is among the strongest and most consistent of all meteor showers.
While most shooting star events occur as Earth moves through debris left behind by a comet, the Quadrantids come from asteroid 2003 EH1. This near-Earth asteroid was first observed by Chinese astronomers more than 500 years ago
Because the moon is approaching a full phase, it may be difficult to see all of the shooting stars in tonight’s sky. The moonlight will potentially outshine all but the brightest meteors.
The best way to locate the Quadrantids is to look north for the Big Dipper and follow the handle across the sky to the red giant star Arcturus. This star forms the bottom of the constellation Bootes – the region of the sky where the Quadrantids will appear.
“For the best conditions, you want to find a safe location away from street lights and other sources of light pollution,” said the Royal Astronomical Society. “The meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky, so it’s good to be in a wide open space where you can scan the night sky with your eyes.”
“In 2023, the maximum of the shower occurs just before the Full Moon, so moonlight will cause some interference.”
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