Tonight, around 2am January 3, 2013, the first major meteor shower of the year will occur, the Quadrantids. Those watching should expect to see up to 40 or so meteors an hour, though the dimmer ones will washed out somewhat by moonlight.
The moon will be in its ‘waning gibbous’ phase, which means it will brighten the sky somewhat but not as much as a full moon. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, if you find a dark place with clear skies you should be good to go.
For a complete listing of this years meteor showers and times, see: Meteor Showers 2013.
“Scientists suspect that the meteors of the Quadrantids are debris from the asteroid 2003 EH1 — the same source of the Geminid meteor shower every December. The asteroid itself may be a chunk from a shattered comet that broke into pieces several hundred years ago, NASA officials said in a statement.”
“The Quadrantid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through a stream of debris from the comet. The fragments slam into the atmosphere at 90,000 mph (144,841 kph) and burn up 50 miles (80.5 km) above the planet in a dazzling display.”
The Quadrantids are named after the now unused constellation, Quadrans. Quadrans was originally used a an ‘instrument’ to plot the locations of stars. When the meteor shower was ‘discovered’ in 1825 the constellation was still in use.
For those who will be watching tonight: Find a place with dark clear skies, Dress warmly, get comfortable with a lawn chair or blankets, and bring something warm to drink, like hot chocolate or coffee.
Image Credits: Starry Night Software