Quadrantid Meteor Shower Peaks Early Thursday

The first meteor shower of 2013 originates from an asteroid.

Cloud cover and moonlight could obscure the Quadrantid Meteor Shower early Thursday in Montgomery County.

A Weather Underground forecast predicts cloud cover of 30-40 percent in the area.

According to NASA, the meteor rates will increase after midnight and peak between 3 a.m. and dawn. To get the best view, get away from city lights and go outside early to let your eyes adjust to the night sky.

To find the right section of the sky to watch, first locate the Big Dipper, Meteor Blog recommends. Then you'll be able to more easily locate the Bootes constellation nearby, where the meteors will appear to radiate from.

Although the maximum number of meteors per hour is around 120, the strong light of the waning gibbous moon will make fainter meteors more difficult to see.

If you would rather not venture out in the cold, or if there is too much light pollution in your area, there's always the live stream online, courtesy of NASA. The camera is light-activated and turns on at around 6 p.m. EST.

The NASA website gives this description of the history of the Quadrantids:

"Like the Geminids, the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid, called 2003 EH1. Dynamical studies suggest that this body could very well be a piece of a comet which broke apart several centuries ago, and that the meteors you will see before dawn on Jan. 3 are the small debris from this fragmentation. After hundreds of years orbiting the sun, they will enter our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth's surface—a fiery end to a long journey!  

"The Quadrantids derive their name from the constellation of Quadrans Muralis (mural quadrant), which was created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795. Located between the constellations of Boötes and Draco, Quadrans represents an early astronomical instrument used to observe and plot stars. Even though the constellation is no longer recognized by astronomers, it was around long enough to give the meteor shower—first seen in 1825—its name."


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