Spectacular first meteor shower of 2017 to light up Northern Hemisphere
The New Year’s fireworks aren’t over yet as the first major meteor shower of 2017 looks set to light up the night sky in North America and Asia. Taking place over January 3 and 4, the Quadrantid shower could see more than 100 shooting stars per hour.
Originating near the North Star, the shower will be visible mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, with North America expected to be able to view it early on January 3 and Asia late on January 4, according to NASA.
Stargazers will have to stay glued to the skies though, as the time of the estimated one-hour shower cannot be pinpointed. Unfortunately for those in Europe, there’s unlikely to be much of a show as the shower is expected to occur during daylight hours.
The shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through a tail of rubble, following a small solar system body called 2003 EH1 – the remnants of a shattered comet which, for a brief period, intersects Earth’s orbit.
Earth moves through the shower at a perpendicular angle, meaning the spectacle lasts only a short period, with the peak usually taking little more than an hour.
Perfect conditions are expected for this year’s shower, with the moon’s partial illumination at present keeping the sky sufficiently dark.
Despite its reputation for putting on a great show, the shower isn’t as widely viewed as others, due in part to it taking place in January, when much of the Northern Hemisphere is in the depths of winter.
“Extra motivation to go out and view the Quadrantid is provided by the showers reputation of producing spectacular fireballs,” according to Brian Day from NASA’s Ames Research Center.
Quadrantid actually emerges from the constellation Bootes, despite its name. When first discovered the shower was named after the obsolete constellation Quadrans Muralis, which was removed in 1922 when the International Astronomical Union adopted the modern list of 88 recognized constellations.