an annual celestial light show of "falling
stars" or meteors.
When: this year, they occur
January 3 - 4 2016 with peak viewing January 4th in the early morning hours.
Where: look up at the constellation Bootes in the northern sky just below the Big Dipper.
The first major meteor showers of the year, the Quadrantids (pronounced "kwa-DRAN-tids") are also one of the most intense -- and more challenging to view!
This is mainly due to the time of year when they occur in coldest January, along with their reputation for giving "one night only" appearances.
Quadrantids are viewed best in northern latitudes with a chance to see them limited to one night of the year, and then only for a few hours.
It's no surprise, then, that only the most dedicated amateur astronomer plan to be out in the dark of winter to view them. But those who do are usually rewarded with a spectacular show of up to 50-100 meteors per hour at their peak.
2016 UPDATE: This year's quarter moon will give much better viewing of the Quadrantids as the streak across the night sky -- unlike last year's nearly full moon that mostly outshone the annual light show.
All about the Quadrantids
The January meteor shower got its name from the now-defunct constellation Quadrant Murales, the location of their radiant when they were first discovered in 1835.
For almost two centuries, the actual origin of the Quadrantids remained a mystery until 2003 when NASA discovered that they were the fine dust particles left behind by an extinct comet now known as 2003 EHI.
The Quadrantids, which were later reassigned to the constellation Bootes, kept their original name because another January shower was already widely-known to meteor watchers as the "Bootids."
When and where to look for Quadrantids 2016
While other meteor showers throughout the year are "long tail" events (with sightings over days or weeks), the Quadrantids are mostly viewed only at their peak. This year's Quadrantids meteor shower will begin in the late night hours of January 3rd but will really reach its peak sometime during the early morning or twilight hours of January 4, 2016.
Extreme northern US states and Canada, Asia, along with locations in northern Europe usually have the best viewing of Quadrantids. To locate them look up in the north or northwestern sky in the constellation Bootes just below the Big Dipper and just above the constellation Draco.
How to view Quadrantids
The best place to observe the Quadrantids meteor shower (or any meteor
shower for that matter), is somewhere dark, away from light pollution,
and with the moon out of the field of vision. The less light visible,
the more brilliant the meteor shower will be.
Telescope or camera?
viewable to the naked eye, the annual Quadrantids meteor shower may be
in any year partially obstructed by the moon, clouds or January winter storms, so amateur astronomers might want to carry along a pair
of binoculars just in case. Even
on clear nights, some type of viewing aid may come in handy for catching sight
of even the faintest of falling stars, aptly named "telescopic"
meteors. On super clear nights, forget the telescope and simply
the annual event, a digital camera mounted on a tripod helps to
steady the images that swiftly move across the sky. A quick trigger
finger also helps, but even random clicks during the height of
Quadrantids "prime-time" will also guarantee that you'll
catch something! Be sure to have the camera focused on infinity
and, if your camera permits, leave the shutter open for several
minutes for the most spectacular photographic effects.
More about Quadrantids meteor shower around the Web: