Quadrantid meteor shower to peak Sunday night. Here’s how to watch it

Canadians stargazers will be treated to the first celestial fireworks show of 2016 Sunday night, as our planet crosses into a cloud of debris left over by a little-known asteroid.

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The Quadrantid meteor shower occurs every January around this time and while it isn’t as long-lasting as the Perseid and Geminid showers, it’s still a sight to behold.

Andrew Fazekas, an astronomy columnist with National Geographic, says many Canadians haven’t seen the shower because they tend not to do a lot of stargazing this time of year.

“Because we’re in the middle of winter, we don’t think of going outside and skywatching. But this is really a show that’s worth looking at because it’s on par with the best meteor showers that we see in the summer,” he told CTV News Channel from Montreal Sunday.

Most meteor showers can be seen for a couple of days, but this one will last only a few hours.

The peak of the shower should be around 3 a.m. local time, Fazekas said.

“But that doesn’t mean you have to go at that time. You can actually start looking for it around 10 or 11 p.m. local time tonight,” he said.

If it is too cloudy, some shooting stars should still be visible until Monday night, he added.

The best place to view the Quadrantids – and indeed all meteor showers – is in the countryside where the sky is darkest. If it’s a clear night, upwards of 100 shooting stars per hour should be visible, Fazekas says.

But even those looking to the northeast sky in suburban areas should be able to see 30 to 60 shooting stars per hour.

This year’s Quadrantid shower is supposed to be a great one for viewing because the moon is just a crescent this week and its light won’t compete with the stars, Fazekas adds.

The Quadrantid meteor shower is named after a constellation called Quadrans Muralis (mural quadrant), which was identified in 1795, according to NASA. Although that constellation is no longer recognized by astronomers, the name has stuck.

The shower originates from an asteroid called 2003 EH1, which was identified only relatively recently, in 2003.

The shooting stars that stargazers see occur as Earth passes through 2003 EH1’s debris trail. Its dust disintegrates in our atmosphere, causing fiery streaks across the sky.

The best way to see them is not with a telescope or binoculars (those will only reduce the amount of sky you can see), but to look into the sky with relaxed eyes and wait to spot the shooting stars.


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