How to see the peak of the 2023 Quadrantids meteor shower tonight in a burst of fire
By Wednesday, your last best chance of seeing shooting stars or fireballs for a while will be over, so plan accordingly.
The first few months of the year have a relative dearth of meteor showers, so it’s worth trying to catch the Quadrantids during their very short peak just after the New Year.
While December is filled with opportunities to catch abundant Geminids and Ursids meteors, the Quadrantids meteor shower is the only major shower in the first quarter of the year, peaking briefly on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in December. this week.
As the geminids Y ursids, the Quadrantids are often among the strongest showers of the year, but these meteors don’t get as much publicity as the northern summer Perseids in August that strike during the summer holidays for many skygazers. In addition, the window of opportunity to see the Quadrantids is very narrow, with a peak of intense activity of only six hours this year, according to the American Meteor Society.
Other showers may peak for a day or two, with a minor but still decent amount of activity spreading over the days before and after the actual peak.
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If you’re hoping to catch the Quadrantids this year, there are two factors to consider: what time the shower will peak at your location, and how high up the quadrant of the night sky will be where the Quadrantids meteors appear to originate at that time.
Predicting the exact moment of a meteor shower’s peak activity is not guaranteed, but the target range for the best viewing times is between 3:40 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. UTC on January 4 (7:40 p.m.). to 10:40 p.m. PT on Tuesday). That being said, the area of the sky from which the Quadrantids radiate is in the area of the constellation Bootes the Shepherd, and this radiant reaches its highest point in the sky between 2am and 6am local time.
Find where these two windows overlap in the northern hemisphere (the radiant will be mostly below the horizon south of the equator, unfortunately) and you’ll have the best places on the planet to observe the Quadrantids. This seems to be almost anywhere in or near the North Atlantic. But again, the maximum predictions aren’t exact, so it’s worth venturing out to see what can be seen from almost anywhere with clear skies in Europe or North America on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
Head outside with plenty of snacks and warm clothing and give yourself at least an hour to enjoy the full viewing experience. It will take about 15 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust and a long time to spot shooting stars, which inevitably seem to appear in short bursts after long pauses in activity.
Lie on your back with a wide view of the clear sky and face northeast to face the right radiant. You can expect to see around 25 Quadrantids an hour in ideal conditions, including lots of fleeting shooting stars and a few fireballs, if you’re lucky. You might get lucky with a Quadrantids outburst that produces up to 120 meteors per hour, according to some predictions.
One potential challenge is that the moon will be 92% full on Wednesday morning, so you may need to adjust your viewing plan to put the bright moon at your back.
What you’re actually seeing when a Quadrantid meteor streaks across the sky is a particle the size of a speck or pebble. Asteroid 2003 EH1, which some astronomers believe may be an extinct comet or a new type of object sometimes called a “rock comet”. Over the centuries, EH1 has left a trail of debris in its wake, and our planet passes through that debris stream every January.
If the weather cooperates where you are, consider making the effort to get outside and look up early on Wednesday, because the next big meteor shower isn’t until April.