The year's first meteor shower may be a great one! The Quadrantids are set to peak on January 4th, 2:30 am ET. Astronomers are calling for clear skies and a dramatic show in much of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the pre-dawn hours.
Can't watch it at the exact time? Don't worry -- astronomers tell us that meteor showers can last for days before and after the peak date.
What is a meteor shower?
Meteors occur when the Earth passes through streams of dust and debris from ancient comets which have entered the Earth's atmosphere. (When the comet has flown close to the sun, its dirty ice evaporated and that, in turn, caused the comet dust to spew into space.) The Quadrantids are a relatively recent discovery (1825).
How to watch the Quadrantid Meteor Shower
The Quadrantids should be visible with the naked eye in North America and perhaps in other parts of the world. Sky watchers in cold climates should bundle up, grab a chair (ideally one with some neck support), and perhaps a blanket, head outside where you can see the largest patch of night sky possible (with as little city light as possible), and look up.
Because meteor showers last for days before and after the projected peak, be sure to scan the skies during the surrounding days, if you can.
A thermos of hot chocolate is a great accompaniment for the Quadrantids.
This American Meteor Society page is a great site for exploring more about the Quadrantids and where and when to see them in your local night sky.
More information about other meteor showers and nature activities can be found on my blog, Slow Family Online.