How to see the 2023 Quadrantids meteor shower peak tonight in a flurry of fire

By Wednesday, your last best chance of seeing shooting stars or fireballs for a while will be over, so plan accordingly.

The early months of the year see a relative dearth of meteor showers, so it’s worth trying to catch the Quadrantids during their very short peak just after New Years.

While December is full of opportunities to catch abundant Geminid and Ursid meteors, the Quadrantid meteor shower is the only major shower in the first quarter of the year, and it peaks quite briefly on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning this week.

As the Geminids and Ursids, the Quadrantids are often among the heaviest showers of the year, but these meteors aren’t as high-profile as the northern summer Perseids in August that hit during summer vacation for many skywatchers. Additionally, the window of opportunity to see the quadrantids is very narrow, with a peak of intense activity lasting just six hours this year, according to the American Meteor Society.

Other showers may have peaks that last a day or two, with a lesser but still decent amount of activity extending for days before and after the actual peak.

If you’re hoping to catch the Quadrantids this year, there are two factors to consider: the time the shower will peak at your location, and the height of the quadrant of the night sky where the Quadrantid meteors appear to be coming from at that time- the.

Predicting the exact time of peak activity in a meteor shower offers no guarantees, 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 Tuesday). That said, the area of ​​the sky from which the quadrantids radiate is in the area of ​​the constellation Bootes the Shepherd, and this radiant is highest in the sky between about 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time.

Find where these two windows overlap in the northern hemisphere (the radiant will mostly be below the horizon south of the equator, unfortunately) and you have the best places on the planet to view the quadrantids. It seems to be just about anywhere in or near the North Atlantic. But again, peak forecasts aren’t exact, so it’s worth venturing out to see what you can spot from just about anywhere with clear skies in Europe or North America. Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

Go out with plenty of refreshments and warm clothes and allow yourself at least an hour for the whole viewing experience. It will take you about 15 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust and plenty of time to spot shooting stars, which seem to inevitably appear in short bursts after long lulls of 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 per hour in ideal conditions, including many fleeting shooting stars and a few fireballs, if you’re lucky. You might get lucky with a quadrantid burst that produces up to 120 meteors per hour, according to some forecasts.

A potential challenge is that the moon will be around 92% full on Wednesday morning, so you may need to adjust your observing plan to put the bright moon at your back.

What you actually see when a quadrantid meteor streaks across the sky is a particle or pebble-sized chunk from asteroid 2003 EH1, which some astronomers believe could be an extinct comet or a new type of comet. object sometimes referred to as a “rocky comet”. “Over the centuries, EH1 has left a trail of debris in its path, and our planet passes through this stream of detritus every January.

If the weather is cooperating where you are, consider making the effort to get out and look up early on Wednesday, as the next big meteor shower won’t be until April.

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