The very first meteor shower for 2016, the Quadrantids, peaks on Sunday night. It is considered one of the best annual showers. While most meteor showers have a two-day peak, Quadrantids only peaks for a few hours. Hence, time is of the essence in order to watch the event tonight.
The Quadrantids starts on Sunday night, Jan. 3, and extends into the early morning hours of Monday, Jan. 4. Its peak happens after 3 a.m. EST and continues up to the first light of the day. During the peak of the Quadrantids meteor shower, 60 to as many as 200 meteors can be seen per hour, NASA says.
Just how important proper timing is when it comes to the Quadrantids? Guy Ottewell, editor of the 2016 edition of the Astronomical Calendar said, “Faint Quadrantids caused by small particles may peak half a day earlier, and there may sometimes be a second peak some hours later, detected partly by radio observations.” The Quadrantids influx, on the other hand, is sharply peaked, he explained to Space.com. The most important time to watch the 2016 first meteor shower is six hours before and after the main peak.
Aside from its peak, the Quadrantids is extra special because it originated from an asteroid. Most meteor showers originate from comets according to NASA. The Quadrantids originated from asteroid 2003 EHI that takes 5.52 years to orbit the sun once.
People in Alaska and Hawaii will see most of the short peak of the Quadrantids. The west coast will also see more of the meteor shower than those from the east across the continental U.S.
To view the Quadrantids, it is best to find a spot away from city or street lights, NASA says. The best position? Lie flat on your back with feet facing northeast and look up. Give the eyes 30 minutes to adapt to the dark sky.
For those who cannot stay outdoors until 3 a.m., the Slooh Observatory is hosting a live feed from Canary Islands. It will live-stream views of the Quadrantids from its network of telescopes stationed across the globe starting 4 p.m. Sunday. Slooh astronomers will discuss how the Quadrantid got its name, answer why it is shorter compared to other meteor showers and compare it to other meteor showers that will take place for the rest of 2016.