What time is the Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2018?
Quadrantid meteors have been visible for the past week but the shower will reach its peak at about 9pm GMT on Wednesday January 3, according to the astronomy website EarthSky.org.
Skywatchers can expect to see between 40 and 100 meteors per hour in what NASA has dubbed “one of the best annual meteor showers”.
The best time to see the meteor shower will be late on Wednesday and in the early hours of January 4.
The Quadrantid meteor shower’s peak time only lasts a few hours as brilliant “fireball meteors” with dazzling tails plunge through the Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA said: “Fireballs are larger explosions of light and colour that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of material.”
How to watch the Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2018?
As with most meteor showers, the best viewing conditions will come in the darkest hours before the dawn.
Those willing to brave the cold to catch a glimpse of the Quadrantids should head to a rural location away from any artificial light pollution.
It is not necessary to use binoculars or a telescope to view the Quadrantids, though NASA does recommend you lie down flat on your back with your feet facing northwest.
It can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark so patience may be required for the best results.
Quadrantids radiate in the northern sky, underneath the Big Dipper constellation and west of the giant red star Arcturus.
The shower’s radiant point favours stargazers in northerly regions.
What is the Quadrantid Meteor Shower?
The Quadrantids are thought to be made up of the dust and debris left by asteroid 2003 EH1, which NASA now describe as possibly a “dead comet”.
NASA said: “Unlike most meteor showers which originate from comets the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid: asteroid 2003 EH1.
“Asteroid 2003 EH1 takes 5.52 years to orbit the sun once. It is possible that 2003 EH is a ‘dead comet’ or a new kind of object being discussed by astronomers called a ‘rock comet.’”
Astronomer and research scientist Peter Jenniskens is credited with first realising that 2003 EH1 is the source of Quadrantid meteors.