The Quadrantid Meteor Shower is not a well known shower, but it’s a shower that is full on capable of producing a rich shower on par with the more famous Perseids and Geminids.
However, the Quadrantids have such a narrow peak, lasting for only a few hours, that if you miss the peak, you won’t see many. But if you do catch the peak, the pay-off can be good!
The reason why the peak only lasts for a few hours rather than an entire night is because the debris field that Earth passes through is much more narrow, so to get that really good shower, you need to be in the right place at the right time to get that 120 meteors per hour.
It just so happens that this year, the peak as predicted by the International Meteor Organization will begin around 8:00 UTC, which translates to 3:00 am Eastern, 2 am Central, 1 am Mountain, and 12:00 am Pacific. That means it will favor North America, with the East Coast having a better chance than the West Coast.
You will want to be in a dark location away from the cities during the early morning hours of January 4.
So Where Do I Look?
The radial point from the shower will emanate from the constellation Boötes, which will easily be found by the bright star Arcturus in the northeast. To find it, you can use the arc of the Big Dipper and trace a line, “Arc to Arcturus.” The actual radial point will be to the left of Arcturus, but below the Big Dipper.
It does not start rising until around your local midnight on January 4, which thankfully is the same time the first quarter moon sets, giving you the dark sky you need to see the show! The radial point will get higher as the night progresses, which will increase your chances of seeing many meteors.
But remember, meteors will streak across the entire sky, so don’t just focus on one section!
It can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to be completely dark adapted. Don’t ruin it by the use of white lights, especially coming from your smartphones!
It’s January in the northern hemisphere, the coldest month of the year for many locations! Be sure to dress warm, and bring what you need to be comfortable: chairs, blankets, pillows. Do not get caught in the cold unprepared!
TL;DR – check it out on the morning of January 4 between midnight and 4 am from a dark location.
Unlike mainstream websites itching for clicks, Orion Bear Astronomy only promotes meteor showers if they are deemed actually worth seeing! This is one of them!
The Quadrantids have the potential to be the best meteor shower of the year. If you live in North America and the skies will be favorable, don’t miss out on this chance!
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