|One of the best displays of "shooting stars" will peak overnight tonight and early Thursday morning (Jan. 3), but unfortunately will run into some stiff competition this year from a bright moon. |
The celestial fireworks display is the Quadrantid meteor shower (pronounced KWA-dran-tid), which kicks off the annual meteor shower schedule every January.To paraphrase Forrest Gump: The Quadrantids are like opening up a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get! Indeed, the "Quads" are notoriously unpredictable.
This year, the meteor shower is peaking while the moon is in its bright gibbous phase, just days after the recent full moon on Dec. 28, which may interfere with the cosmic light show.
The Quadrantids provides one of the most intense annual meteor showers, with a brief, sharp maximum lasting but a few hours. Adolphe Quetelet of Brussels Observatory discovered the shower in the 1830's, and shortly afterward it was noted by several other astronomers in Europeand America. [Amazing Quadrantid Meteor Shower Photo of 2012]
The meteors are named after the obsolete constellation Quadrans Muralis the Mural or Wall Quadrant (an astronomical instrument), depicted in some 19th-century star atlases roughly midway between the end of the Handle of the Big Dipper and the quadrilateral of stars marking the head of the constellation Draco. (The International Astronomical Union phased out Quadrans Muralis in 1922.)
NASA will provide a live webcast of the 2013 Quadrantid meteor shower each night this week through Friday (Jan. 4). You can follow the meteor shower on SPACE.com here courtesy of the NASA feed.