As the new year arrives, this is the perfect time to catch the Quadrantids meteor shower. Along with other skywatching tips for January, this is a great opportunity to enjoy a sight of the night sky which you can view without needing any special equipment.
What to expect from the Quadrantids meteor shower
The Quadrantids meteor shower happens once per year when the Earth passes through a patch of debris in its orbit. This debris includes small chunks of rock that enter the atmosphere and burn up, creating meteor streaks across the night sky. These patches of debris are typically left by comets, though in the case of the Quadrantids it was an asteroid called asteroid 2003 EH1 which caused the debris responsible for the shower.
The Quadrantids is one of the biggest meteor showers of the year, running from December through to January. But the shower will peak next week, so that’s the best time to head out and look up if you’re hoping to catch a meteor or two.
How to watch the Quadrantids meteor shower
The Quadrantids shower will peak over the evening of January 3 to January 4, though you may be able to catch some meteors in the sky in the days before and after as well. But your best chance for a great view will be to go out late in the evening of January 3, or just before dawn on January 4, as there will be a bright moon out which will be nearly full and which will make it harder to spot meteors.
You’ll need clear skies to be able to see the shower, so hope for a cloudless night, and do remember to wrap up warm as you can get very cold when staying still outside. Try to get far away from bright light sources like cities, and try to avoid looking at your phone too much as this will mess with your night vision.
Find a quiet spot and lie on the ground, looking up at the sky. After around 15 to 20 minutes your eyes should have adjusted to the darkness and you should be able to see better. You’ll be able to spot the meteors as streaks of light shooting across the sky, with potentially more than 100 meteors per hour being visible if you’re lucky.