Despite all the bright lights and fireworks put to good use this past holiday season, Mother Nature will be putting on her own New Year’s celebration with the upcoming Quadrantid meteor shower, the first major meteor shower of 2017.
The shower, known to generate anywhere from 50 to 100 meteors, is predicted to peak in the Americas on January 3 around 14:00 GMT, or 9 a.m., according to the International Meteor Organization. However, these predictions aren’t always accurate, and unlike the Perseid or Geminid showers, the Quadrantid’s peak will only last for a few hours, so try watching during the dark hours before dawn on January 4 as well.
The Quadrantids will appear to radiate from the now-obsolete Quadrans Muralis constellation, which, in 1922, was not included in the International Astronomical Union’s list of 88 modern constellations. Quadrans Muralis is now considered to be at the northern tip of Bootes near the Big Dipper, putting the radiant point of the Quadrantid shower at an approximate right angle with the Big Dipper and the star Arcturus.
Put simply, the easiest way to find the shower is to search north for the Big Dipper and follow the arc of its handle across the sky towards Arcturus, which anchors the bottom of the constellation Bootes. That is where the shower should appear.
Unfortunately for skywatchers in the Southern Hemisphere, the Quadrantid’s radiant point is very far north. Most meteors won’t make it above the horizon for Southern observers to catch.