One of the ‘best meteor showers of the year’ will peak this evening, when the Quadrantids will send up to 50 shooting stars per hour streaking across the sky.
This is the first meteor shower of 2022, and will peak on January 3 at about 21:40, appearing to emanate in the constellation Bootes, near the Big Dipper.
Quadrantids are especially known for their bright ‘fireball’ meteors that leave large explosions of light and colour that persist longer than average meteor streaks.
Unlike most meteor showers, which originate from debris left behind by comets, the Quandrantids come from asteroid 2003 EH1, which may be a ‘dead comet’.
To get the best out of the shower and see as many shooting stars as possible, you’ll need to find a dark sky area, with minimal light pollution and a clear horizon, according to NASA, which says ‘they are visible throughout the night sky.’
The name comes from Quadrans Muralis, which is a former constellation created in 1795 by the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that included portions of Boötes and Draco, but has since fallen out of use.
They peak from late December into very early January each year, and unlike other meteor showers which have a two-day peak, these last just a few hours.
‘The reason the peak is so short is due to the shower’s thin stream of particles and the fact that the Earth crosses the stream at a perpendicular angle,’ NASA said.
At an extreme, up to 200 shooting stars can be seen per hour, but that relies on perfect conditions in the ideal spot on Earth.
Unlike many astronomical events, meteor showers are easy to watch and no special equipment is needed.