How to See Tonight’s Peak of the 2023 Quadrantids Meteor Shower, By Wednesday, the best chance you’ll have to witness a meteor or fireball will have passed, so make your plans accordingly.
There are few meteor showers in the first few months of the year, so it’s worth trying to see the Quadrantids during their brief peak right after the New Year.
The Quadrantid meteor shower is the only big shower in the first three months of the year, and it peaks for only a few hours on Tuesday night and Wednesday early this week. This starkly contrasts with the plentiful Geminid and Ursid meteor showers in December.
The Quadrantids and the, Geminids and Ursids are among the strongest meteor showers of the year. However, they garner less attention than the Perseids in August, which occur during the summer break for many skywatchers in the northern hemisphere. Furthermore, the American Meteor Society reports that this year’s peak of strenuous activity during the Quadrantids will last only six hours.
While the peak of sure showers may only last a day or two, the activity level may remain relatively high for several days before and after the rise.
There are two things to keep in mind if you want to see the Quadrantids this year: when the shower will be at its peak where you are and how high the quadrant of the night sky from which the Quadrantid meteors appear to originate will be at that time.
Although pinpointing an exact peak time for a meteor shower’s activity is impossible, the hours between 3:40 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. UTC on January 4 are recommended (7:40 p.m. to 10:40 p.m. PT on Tuesday). However, the Quadrantid radiant is most significant in the sky between around 2 and 6 a.m. local time, and it is in the direction of the constellation Bootes the herdsman.
The most incredible places on Earth to see the Quadrantids are where these two windows coincide in the Northern Hemisphere (sadly, the radiant will be mostly below the horizon south of the equator). It might be anywhere in or close to the North Atlantic. Although peak estimates aren’t always accurate, anyone in Europe or North America on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning with clear skies should go outside and see what they can see.
Get yourself outside with lots of snacks and warm clothing and at least an hour to enjoy the show. It takes the human eye around 15 minutes to fully acclimatize to the dark, so give yourself plenty of time to observe the sky and look for shooting stars, which always appear in clusters followed by extended periods of inactivity.
For the correct radiant, one must lie on their back with an unobstructed view of the northeastern sky. Under ideal conditions, you can hope to see around 25 Quadrantids in an hour, including many brief shooting stars and possibly even a fireball or two. Some forecasts call for an outburst of Quadrantids, which might bring as many as 120 meteors per hour.
The moon will be nearly full on Wednesday morning, so you should position yourself so that the bright moon is behind you if you want to see clearly.
When you see a Quadrantid meteor, you’re seeing a tiny fragment of the asteroid 2003 EH1, which some scientists think is either an extinct comet or a new form of object frequently termed a “rock comet.” Every January, Earth travels through the debris stream left behind by EH1 throughout the years.
Since the next significant meteor shower will occur in April, it might be worth getting up early on Wednesday, if the weather permits, wherever you are to look at the sky.