You do not have to wait long for your first opportunity in 2022 to look at the sky. The annual Quadrantids meteor shower peaks this week, bringing hundreds of shooting stars to the night sky.
It is the first major astronomy event of the year and will peak over a two-night window, specifically Monday, January 3rd to the early morning hours of Tuesday, January 4th.
According to astronomers, it will have anywhere from 60 to 200 meteors per hour, so it’s worth spending a few minutes playing the lead role into the cosmos. If you want to see all the astronomical action this weekend, here’s everything you need to know about the best times to see some shooting stars.
Why is it called Quadrantids?
Like other showers, it is named after the constellation near the point of radiation (or point of origin) of the meteors. In this case, it is Quadrans Muralis, a constellation that is no longer recognized by astronomers and is now known as Bootes (meteor showers are alternately known as Bootids).
So what is the cause of all these meteors?
As any astronomer will tell you, showers are caused by our planet passing through dust, rocks and ice left by comets. And when this stellar substance hits the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up, it causes shooting stars. During January, our orbits cross paths with detritus from the extinct comet 2003 EH1, which was discovered by Arizona astronomers in 2003.
When is the best time to see Quadrantid’s Meteor Shower?
Between now and mid-January. As we said, it will peak this year Monday, January 3rd to the early morning hours on Tuesday, January 4th. Your best time for viewing is in the early morning hours between 6 p.m. 3 and 5. In other words, you better set your alarms.
Where in the sky are you going to look?
Low in the northwest sky against the general area of the constellation Bootes. As we mentioned, the meteors seem to be coming from there.
Are there any apps you can use?
Sort of. While there are now meteor tracking apps, basic skywatching and stargazing apps for iOS and Android like Star Chart, SkySafari and Solar Walk can all be used to locate the constellation.
What will the viewing conditions be like?
This is where it gets a little tricky. The moon will be in its waning gibbous phase, which means it will be quite bright in the sky and will reduce the number of meteors that can be seen. However, if you are in the right location, you should still be able to spy on a reasonable number of shooting stars. Speaking of which …
Where are the best places to see?
Anywhere with wide open skies that are as dark as possible and offer a little light pollution. Basically, it means driving away from the city lights to the edge of the valley and places like Buckeye, Anthem, Queen Creek or Carefree.