The first meteor shower of 2012 will peak on Wednesday, January 4 around 2:30 a.m. EST (0730 GMT) through dawn. This time, the moon not being a concern as it will set around that time. The sky should be very dark and at it’s best for watching a meteor shower take place.
The Quadrantids (pronounced KWA-dran-tids) are the most intense of the year’s meteor showers, but one of the shortest too. The International Meteor Organisation (IMO) expects a maximum of 120 meteors per hour and can vary between 60 to 200 per hours as the Quadrantids meteor shower peaks.
According to Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society, “If your skies are very clear and dark, allowing you to see faint meteors, your rates could top 100 per hour. Observers located in the western portions of North American will have lower rates but will also have the opportunity to see Quadrantid ‘earthgrazers.’ Earthgrazers are meteors that skim the upper portion of the atmosphere therefore lasting much longer than normal and producing long trails in the sky. These meteors can only be seen when the radiant lies close to the horizon. As the radiant rises, the meteor paths will become shorter with shorter durations.”
It is called “Quadrantids Meteor Shower” as the radiant of the meteor shower lies in Bootes constellation which was earlier called Quadrans Muralis. The source was unknown until Peter Jenniskens of the NASA Ames Research Center found evidence that Quadrantid meteoroids come from 2003 EH11, an “asteroid” that was most likely a piece of a comet that broke up around 500 years ago.
The Quadrantids meteor shower are a northern-hemisphere phenomenon because of the direction they come in from. The timing of the meteor shower will be peaking as the moon sets. You will be able to best see the meteor shower the eastern U.S.
January is the worse timing for sky-watchers to watch the meteor showers because it’s so cold and crisp outside, but the best timing for meteor showers is when the air is cold and crisp. Be sure to find warm clothing and take it in.
Alan MacRobert of Sky & Telescope magazine wrote, “Make it an adventure!. Plan a proper expedition. You want to be snug in many layers from head to feet with no pinches or thin spots. An electric hot pad buttoned inside your coat will help, with a long extension cord back to the house.”