A long exposure of the Quadrantid meteor shower.
CNN  — 

The new year begins with the peak of the Quadrantid meteor shower on Saturday, one of the best annual shows in the night sky, according to NASA. Dark skies should allow for a nice look at the bright shower in the early morning hours of January 4.

But the peak is brief, only lasting about six hours. The peak is estimated to arrive at 3:20 a.m. ET on January 4, according to the American Meteor Society. And it will be best seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

Skygazers hoping to see the estimated 50 to 100 meteors in the dark, early morning sky should be prepared to look up at least an hour before the peak in case it begins early, but EarthSky suggests watching starting in the late evening of January 3.

Between 50 and 100 meteors are typically visible per hour, especially in rural areas. While the bright moon will reduce this number, you may be able to see more meteors if the skies are clear in your area.

Check Time and Date to see what your chances are like, or step outside to take a look for yourself.

What’s in a name?


If the meteor shower’s name sounds odd, it’s probably because it doesn’t sound like it’s related to a constellation, like other meteor showers. That’s because the Quadrantids’ namesake constellation no longer exists – at least, not as a recognized constellation.

The constellation Quadrans Muralis, first observed and noted in 1795 between Bootes and Draco, is no longer included in the International Astronomical Union’s list of modern constellations because it is considered obsolete.

Like the Geminid meteor shower, the Quadrantid comes from a mysterious asteroid or “rock comet,” rather than an icy comet, which is unusual. This particular asteroid is 2003 EH1, which takes 5.52 years to orbit the sun once.

The shower’s short peak is because only a small stream of particles interacts with our atmosphere, and the stream occurs at a perpendicular angle. Each year, Earth passes through this debris trail for a short time.

If you live in an urban area, you may want to drive to a place that isn’t littered with city lights that will obstruct your view. If you’re able to find an area unaffected by light pollution, meteors could be visible every couple of minutes from late evening until dawn.

Prepare for a year filled with awe-inspiring reasons to look up at the night sky.