The Quadrantids aren’t as well-known as the Perseids or Geminids meteor showers, but its hourly rate can rival the best annual meteor showers. But you need to know precisely when to look up.
The Quadrantid meteor shower is active right now, but will see a sharp increase in activity on the morning of January 4th at 3:00 am EST. And with the Moon setting around midnight, it’ll be prime viewing conditions for the first meteor shower of 2020. Peak hourly rates are expected to be around 120 meteors per hour, but they can vary between 60 and 200 depending on viewing conditions. And unlike the two-day peak we see in many other meteor showers, the Quadrantids will peak for only a few hours.
Don’t forget to head outside a little earlier so your eyes can adjust to the dark. It’ll make spotting the fainter meteors easier. The Quadrantids are also known to produce exceptionally bright fireballs.
With the Moon being a non-issue, the only other obstacles are weather and how much light pollution is around you. There’s not much we can do about the weather besides hope for clear skies. But you can use DarkSiteFinder to help you find darker skies to view the meteor shower from. Here’s how the light pollution looks for the eastern half of the U.S. on any given night.
The main goal is to get away from the whites, reds, and oranges. Yellows are fine. Green and blues are better.
What part of the sky should you look for Quadrantids?
It doesn’t matter with meteor showers as they tend to streak across the entire sky. But it’s radiant point (the point where they appear to originate from) is right below the Big Dipper. Just lay on the ground with your feet pointed that way, and you’ll be good to go.
What’s responsible for the Quadrantids?
Unlike most meteor showers, which are the leftovers of icy comets, the Quadrantids are believed to be bits and pieces of Asteroid 2003 EH1. It was discovered in 2003 and measures just two miles across. According to NASA, astronomers are discussing whether 2003 EH1 represents a new class of object called a “rock comet.”
If the weather cooperates, head on outside in the early hours of January 4. You might just see one of the best shows of 2020.