The Quadrantids are a brief but powerful meteor shower that occur in early January. This year they will have to compete with a bright moon.
A little-known meteor shower named after an extinct constellation, the Quadrantids will present an excellent chance for hardy souls to start the year off with some late-night meteor watching. Unlike the more famous Perseid and Geminid meteor showers, the Quadrantids only last a few hours, so it's the morning of Jan. 3 or nothing. Given the location of the radiant -- northern tip of Bootes the Herdsman -- only observers at latitudes north of 51 degrees south will be able to see Quadrantids. The map below shows viewing areas across the world. Green areas have good viewing, yellow areas have poor viewing and red ares will see very few or no Quadrantids.
Editor's note, Jan. 2, 8:45 p.m. EST: Tonight (Jan. 2-3) is the peak of the 2013 Quadrantid meteor shower. Best viewing will be in the northern hemisphere, but the shower can be seen at latitudes north of 51 degrees south. Meteor rates increase after midnight and peak between 3 a.m. and dawn, your local time at whatever location you're viewing the shower. To view Quadrantids, go outside and allow your eyes 30-45 minutes to adjust to the dark. Look straight up, allowing your eyes to take in as much of the sky as possible. You will need cloudless, dark skies away from city lights to see the shower. The maximum rate will be about 120/hour. However, light from the waning gibbous moon will wash out fainter meteors, so don't expect to see this many. The peak rate of the Quadrantids has varied between 60-200, so its peak is not as consistent as other showers.
Editor's note, 8:45 p.m. EST: A live Ustream feed of the Quadrantid shower is embedded below. The camera is mounted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Unfortunately the skies tonight (Jan. 2-3) are cloudy over the Marshall Center, so the Ustream view may simply show overcast skies. We're hoping for some breaks in the clouds, and that everyone has clear skies in their locations tonight for some live meteor watching.
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