Meteor Shower: How can you see the Quadrantids?

Last updated at 09:08
QuadrantidsNASA/Jérémie Vaubaillon

The Quadrantid meteor shower is 2020's first major meteor show - and we don't have long to wait!

The International Meteor Organization says the best time to see it is 3-4 January.

The "Quads" shower happens every January and is described as an above-average meteor shower, meaning that it produces up to 120 meteors an hour.

So if you are lucky you should be able to see something - even Nasa calls it "one of the best annual meteor showers."

What is it?

The Quadrantid meteor shower is known for bright fireball meteors.

Fireballs are larger explosions of light and colour that can last longer than an average meteor streak.


The Quadrantids got their name because they seem to come from a former constellation called Quadrans Muralis.

Quadrans Muralis was discovered in 1795 by a French astronomer but is no longer recognised by the International Astronomical Union and is today considered part of the constellation of Bootes.

So - confusingly - the meteor shower is sometimes called the Bootids!

When is it?

In 2020, the International Meteor Organization gives the peak as January 3-4.

A Quadrantid meteor is seen over New Mexico in the early morning hours of Jan. 3, 2013.NASA

The best time to see the showers will be just before dawn on the 4th of January.

Unlike other meteor showers, the peak only lasts a couple of hours.

Where does it comes from?

It's believed the Quadrantids are created from dust left behind by an asteroid called 2003 EH1.

Quadrantid meteor near the constellation of the southern cross.Frankie Lucena/NASA
Quadrantid meteor near the constellation of the southern cross.

This asteroid is thought to have once been a comet, which has now shed all of its ice and other debris and is just a big lump of solid rock.

This asteroid takes about five and a half years to orbit the sun.

When the Earth's orbit hits that trail of space debris rubble from 2003 EH1, the dust is knocked out of place and falls into the atmosphere, burning up and creating streaks of light.

The shooting stars travel at 41km per second.

What's the best way to see it?

The shooting stars will be visible to the naked eye so no special equipment is necessary.

However your eyes will need to adjust to the darkness in order for you to view the meteors more clearly.

A stargazer watching a meteor into the skyGetty Images

Experts recommend that you step outside and look up at the sky 20 minutes before the shower is due to take place, so your eyes can adjust to the night sky.

And it's better to go away from urban areas where the light pollution from buildings, car headlights, street lamps and neon signs can cause too much glare.

Wrap up warm and bring a chair or blanket so you sit or lie down and can look up for long periods without getting neck strain.

Good luck, stargazers!

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