It might be cold out, but if it’s clear, we suggest stepping outside on the evening of January 3 and 4. Why? That’s when the Quadrantid Meteor Shower is expected to peak.
The Quadrantids, which originate from an asteroid known as 2003 EH1 (possibly an ‘extinct comet’), is one of only two known meteor showers to originate from a rocky body. The December Geminids is the other, originating from ‘rock comet’ asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
And while a full moon may make some of the meteors appear fainter, it’s still worth taking a look.
According to The Weather Network, what sets this year’s light display apart from last year’s is the fact that unlike 2018’s show, “which was mostly washed out by the light from the nearly-full moon, this year’s meteor shower is happening while the Moon is just a thin sliver of a crescent, which slips beyond the horizon before sunset on Thursday, and doesn’t come up again until just before dawn, Friday.”
This, the network said, “means we’ll have a nice dark sky for the entire night, and observers have the best chance to catch even the faintest of meteors flashing through the sky during the January 3-4 peak of the shower.”
Although not as well-known as other meteor showers, the Quadrantid is expected to average 120 meteors per hour at its peak. But while these meteors are fainter and easier to miss, Space says the Quadrantid can “produce fireballs with giant, glowing tails highlighting the meteors’ paths across the sky.”
Even if you only catch the shower at an off-peak moment, the rates of about 25 meteors per hour are still expected.
The network has also listed the three “best practices” for watching meteor showers. These include:
For the best viewing, make sure to give your eyes time to adapt to the dark. This usually takes anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes.
Overall, the best bet for Canadian skywatchers may be to head out just after sunset, and get set up to watch for meteors in the earlier hours of the night, so as to hopefully catch the tail end of the peak.
That said, The Weather Network notes that viewers in the eastern half of the country will likely be more successful, “as the peak may completely die down before the sun sets in the western half.”
Enjoy the light show!