Dark Skies Favor Quadrantid Meteor Shower Viewing Friday
The Quadrantids have streaked across northern skies since Dec. 27, but the best time to view them should arrive late Friday night, Jan. 3, and last until early dawn.
Arizona lies a bit south of the optimal viewing area for this year's first major meteor shower, but a lack of moonlight during the predawn hours of the 4th will reward dedicated viewers with favorably dark skies.
The comparatively faint Quadrantids offer a narrower viewing window than the Perseids or Geminids, whose peaks can last for a day or longer.
Like them, the Quadrantid shower is named for the constellation corresponding to its radiant — the place in the sky where, from human perspective, its meteor streaks appear to originate.
But Quadrans Muralis, or the "mural quadrant," is no longer recognized as an official constellation, having been omitted from the list of 88 modern constellations cataloged by the International Astronomical Union in 1922.
Instead, viewers can seek the Quadrantids' radiant at the northern edge of the constellation Boötes, near the tip of the Big Dipper's handle.
Meteor showers occur each year as the Earth passes through the debris orbits of comets, though some showers, including the Quadrantids and Geminids, might originate from asteroids.
The Quadrantids will continue until around Jan. 10.