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How to See the Quadrantid Meteor Shower Light Up in the Sky This Weekend



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This Quadrantid meteor appeared over New Mexico in 2013.

NASA / MSFC / MEO

The new year has finally arrived and 2021

will kick off with a beautiful light show for those who want to go out in the early morning hours on Sunday to see the Quadrantid meteor shower. The Quadrantids are not nearly as well known as the Perseids or Leonids, but they have the potential to be one of the strongest showers of the year.

The challenge is that these shooting stars and bright fireballs are at risk of being washed away by the bright moon that will not be far from its full phase Saturday night and Sunday morning. Also, the top of the Quadrantides is quite narrow, with a window of only a few hours instead of a few days as with other showers.

But with a little planning, you might be able to catch the screen, which is known to produce over 100 meteors per hour, including quite a few bright fireballs.

The International Meteor Organization predicts that the Quadrantids will officially peak in the hour before sunrise on the Pacific coast of much of North America, or a few hours after the sun rises on the east coast. However, such forecasts aren’t always accurate, so it’s best to just hit the road sometime between about 2 a.m. and sunrise on Sunday.

You want to avoid light pollution as much as possible and find a place to watch with good weather, a wide view of the sky, and the ability to take your eyes off the bright moon as much as possible. Keep in mind that the show is generally better in the Northern Hemisphere, where you’ll likely want to bundle up in most venues to brave winter temperatures.

The Quadrantids appear to come from the region of the sky near Polaris, the North Star, but will fly through all parts of the sky.

This is because what’s really going on is Earth is drifting through a cloud of debris attached to the asteroid 2003EH1, which could once have been a comet. Although the origin of these meteors may be somewhat mysterious, they will nevertheless collide with our atmosphere and burn up spectacularly.

Enjoy the first major nighttime sky show of 2021!


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