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Ring in 2015 With the Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaks this weekend

This false-color composite image shows meteors streaking through the skies over NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., on the night of Jan. 3-4, 2012. (NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environments Office/Danielle Moser and Bill Cooke)
smithsonian.com

The first weekend of this new year also marks its first meteor shower—a celestial fireworks display to help kick things off right.

Peaking overnight between Saturday and Sunday, the Quadrantid meteor shower should provide quite the show—if you can avoid the obscuring light of the Moon, says NASA.

The burning remnants of asteroid 2003 EH1, the Quadrantids are “known for their bright fireball meteors,” says NASA: They start as "larger particles of material" and therfore are larger and can last longer than your average meteor.

Though Quadrantid meteors have technically been trickling into the atmosphere for days, this annual meteor shower is known for having a particularly tight peak display, says Space.com.

Past observations allow us to predict that the 2015 Quadrantid meteor shower will peak on the night of Jan. 3 at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT). During this time, the radiant will be close to the northern horizon and there is a good chance of seeing "Earth-grazers" — meteors coming in close to the horizon to the east and west.

Later on in the night, says Space.com, the meteor shower's radiant point will rise up and to the east.

The Quadrantids are also known for, possibly, being quite young—at least as far as meteor showers are concerned. According to Elizabeth Howell for Space.com, “some astronomers believe 2003 EH1 is the remainder of comet C/1490 Y1, which was lost to history after a prominent meteor shower was mentioned in Chinese records in 1490.

According to NASA, “Chinese, Korean and Japanese observers recorded a bright comet in January of 1491 (C/1490 Y1) with an orbit similar to that of the Quadrantids. This is in fact in the right timeframe for this breakup to have occurred.”

That has yet to be definitively confirmed; it's a nice idea to speculate on, though, as you watch light streak the sky. If, that is, you're north of the Equator—the Quadrantids, unfortunately for southerly star-gazer, are mostly visible in the Northern Hemisphere.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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