Now that the Mayan apocalypse (so called by everyone except the Maya) has come and gone, we can once again scan the skies without trepidation. And what better night to do so than right before dawn during the first few days of 2013, when you might just spot some shooting stars.
It’s the Quadrantid meteor shower, obscure and aptly named after a no-longer-recognized constellation (it was of an obsolete astronomical instrument used to observe and plot stars, according to NASA), and it peaks early on the morning of January 3, 2013.
The shower peaks for just a few hours, right before dawn. Like the Geminids, which we saw in December, the Quadrantids spring from an asteroid—in this case one called 2003 EH1—rather than a comet, which means the particles are denser and therefore have the potential to be brighter. But because of the shower’s location, only visible in northern climes, and dimmed by a waning gibbous moon, the Quadrantids may not provide much of a show. But that’s not certain.
From about 2 a.m. until dawn on January 3, EarthSky.org suggests, face north-northeast and scan as much of the sky’s expanse as possible. NASA says there can be up to 80 meteors per hour.
“If this year’s forecast proves correct, western North America and the islands of the North Pacific Ocean might enjoy the most favorable location,” says EarthSky.org. “However, meteor showers are notorious for defying predictions…. This shower is worth a try at northerly latitudes all around the globe.”
NASA will offer a live stream feed of the Quadrantids from January 2-4 from a camera mounted at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, according to a statement. The light-activated camera will turn on at dusk.