|2008 Quadrantid meteor shower |
Image Credit: Jeremie Vaubaillon, NASA / CalTech
Bundle up and head out tonight to watch the 2013 Quadrantid meteor shower make its annual new year trip across the night sky. The meteor shower will peak in the early hours of January 3rd, with the shower rates increasing after midnight and peaking between 3 a.m. and dawn.
Like the Geminid shower that appears in December, the Quarantids
stem from an asteroid
. Research suggests that this asteroid is likely a piece of a comet that fractured hundreds of years ago. The shooting stars
we see tonight are fragments of the comet that soar through our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up as friction against the atmospheric air particles heats the meteors to over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Quadrantid shower gets its name from the Quadrans Muralis constellation
, created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795. Sound unfamiliar? That might be because the Quadrans Muralis is no longer recognized by astronomers. When the International Astronomical Union agreed upon a list of 88 constellations at its 1922 inaugural General Assembly in Rome, the Quadrans Muralis didn't make the cut. But, since most meteor showers are named after the constellations from which they appear to radiate, the name stuck.
Tonight, NASA expects
the maximum shower rate to be about 120 per hour, but warns that the waning gibbous moon will likely wash out the fainter meteors. For the maximal stargazing experience, NASA suggests finding a viewing spot away from city lights, and allowing your eyes 30 - 45 minutes to adjust to the dark. Unlike the Geminid or Perseid meteor showers though, the peak Quadrantids only last a few hours-- tonight's the night!
If the cold wee hours aren't your thing-- you can also stay cozy at home and watch NASA's livestream
of the shower which will begin around 6 p.m. January 2-4.