PROVIDENCE, RI — The Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks Wednesday and Thursday, with the latter boasting clear skies and a chilly night with lows of 21 degrees.
For the less punctual, the Quadrantid meteor shower runs from mid-November through mid-January each year, according to the journal Icarus. You can still see a Quadrantid streak by any time until then, but your best bet is during the next two days, weather permitting.
According to NASA, the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid: asteroid 2003 EH1. Asteroid 2003 EH1 takes 5.52 years to orbit the Sun once. It is possible that 2003 EH is a “dead comet” or a “rock comet.” Most meteor showers originate from comets.
2003 EH1 was discovered on March 6, 2003, by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search (LONEOS). 2003 EH1 is a small asteroid – its diameter measures only about two miles (three kilometers) across. It was astronomer and research scientist Peter Jenniskens who realized that 2003 EH1 is the source for the Quadrantid meteors.
Interested meteor watchers should focus their viewing between midnight and dawn, and get as far away from city and town lights as possible. The Frosty Drew Observatory inside Ninigret Park in Charlestown is the best spot in the state for stargazing with the least light pollution, though there isn’t an official viewing event scheduled until a few days after the peak, on Friday. If you were going to get lucky meteor shower wise, anyone showing for that event is likely to have the best chance that day, since you’ll have trained astronomers nearby with equipment already pointed skyward.
To view the Quadrantids, find an area well away from the city or street lights. Come prepared for winter weather with a sleeping bag, blanket, or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing northeast and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient – the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.
The Quadrantids have a average rate of about 80 per hour, varying between 60-200.
If you do venture toward Frosty Drew, first read up on how to dress for the cold like the Frosty Drew astronomers do.
When to view:
Start craning your neck just before midnight, and through dawn.
- Bring a blanket and something to prop your head up as you watch for meteors.
- Remember, state parks close at dusk, so while those areas are far from light pollution, you won’t be able to go in.
- This is a good night to let the other guy drive so you can just look up.
- If you see a very slow, bright object sailing across the sky, it’s either a satellite or a Space Station.
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