Signs in the Heavens Update

Eyes to the sky: The Quadrantid meteor shower will brighten the night sky early Friday

Eyes to the sky: The Quadrantid meteor shower will brighten the night sky early Friday

Doyle Rice. USA TODAY•December 31, 2018

For you skywatchers out there who can’t wait for the “super blood wolf moon eclipse” later in January, the Quadrantid meteor shower will provide a few hours of entertainment early Friday morning.

The Quads, as they are known, will be best seen between midnight and dawn on Jan. 4. The showers have a short peak of just a few hours.

The Quadrantids have the potential to be the strongest shower of the year, the American Meteor Society said, but usually fall short due to the short length of maximum activity (6 hours) and the poor weather experienced during early January.”

Some good news: This year, the moon will just be a small crescent sliver in the sky, which will ensure dark skies for this year’s show, according to Earthsky.org. “Even though moonlight isn’t a factor this year, you still have to be in the right spot on Earth to view this meteor shower in all its splendor,” EarthSky said.

The shower will be seen best by folks in the Northern Hemisphere, since its radiant point is so far north on the sky’s dome near the famous Big Dipper, in the north-northeastern sky between midnight and dawn, according to EarthSky

Astronomy.com said that observers all around the Northern Hemisphere should see a good display, but the best views likely will be in Europe.

Though the meteors will radiate from the northern sky, they will appear in all parts of the sky. The number of meteors per hour for the Quadrantids varies from 60 to 200 per hour, with an average around 120. They often produce bright fireballs.

The Quads were first observed in Italy in 1825. They are named after an obsolete constellation, Quadrans Muralis, as seen by a French astronomer in 1795.

The Quadrantids are unusual because they come from an asteroid, not a comet, as do most meteor showers.

It’s thought that the asteroid, named 2003 EH1, is the extinct remains of a comet observed in Asia back in the year 1490, Cooke said. Asteroids are small, rocky bodies while comets are made up of ice and dust around a rocky core.

Contributing: Beth Weise, USA TODAY

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