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Quadrantid meteors promise fireworks this week

image
Quadrantid meteors observed in 1995 by members of the International Meteor Organization  

(CNN) -- Those willing to venture out into predawn chill this Wednesday will get a chance to observe one of the most intense yet least-observed of annual meteor showers.

The Quadrantids officially began December 28, but should reach a sharp maximum on January 4 between midnight and 7 a.m. EST, with as many as 200 shooting stars visible per hour.

The first-quarter moon should pose no interference. It sets shortly after midnight, leaving the skies fully dark from then on, according to Sky and Telescope magazine.

  MESSAGE BOARD
 
 Viewing tips:
  • The radiant, or visual center, of the Quadrantid shower rises around midnight local time at mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. To find the radiant at, say, 4 a.m., go outside and face north. The radiant will appear about 40 degrees eastward of the north star, Polaris.

  • The naked eye is usually best for seeing meteors, which often streak more than 45 degrees across the sky.

  • Dress warmly and bring a reclining chair, or spread a thick blanket over a flat spot of ground.

  • Lie down and look up somewhat toward the north.

Source: NASA

Meteor showers occur when then the Earth passes through streams of solid particles, dust size and larger, moving as a group through space. The particles leave brilliant trails, sometimes called shooting stars, as they burn up in the atmosphere.

The Quadrantids are also among the least observed of the annual meteor showers, in part because of the weather, according to NASA. The shower's radiant is located high in the northern sky, so the Quadrantids are visible mainly to observers in the Northern Hemisphere, where the weather is cold and often stormy in January.

Plus the shower's peak is relatively brief, usually lasting only a few hours.

With observations in short supply, many basic questions about the Quadrantids remain unanswered. For example, the source of the Quadrantid meteors is unknown.

The shower takes its name from an obsolete constellation called Quadrans Muralis found in early 19th-century star atlases between Draco, Hercules, and Bootes.




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