Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2018: How, When And Where to Watch the Shooting Stars

The first meteor shower of the year, normally one of the best and brightest, will peak next week. While the exact time is something of a moving target, the Quadrantids are expected to peak very early in the morning of January 3, 2018.

According to the American Meteor Society, the Quadrantids are the first major meteor shower of the calendar year. In 2017, they peaked on January 3rd. And, according to NASA, they are usually one of the best meteor showers of the year, visible in most of the Northern Hemisphere.    

Unfortunately, according to EarthSky, this year’s may be harder to see. While on some years the meteor shower reportedly produces up to 50 to 100 meteors per hour, filling the sky with fireballs, this year the moon may be in the way. According to EarthSky, the largest full moon of the year will likely overlap with the shower, outshining the shooting stars and making them harder to see.

Like all meteor showers, the Quadrantids get their name from a trick of the eye. Every meteor shower is named for the constellation from which the meteorites appear to fall. The Perseids are named for Perseus, the Leonids are named for Leo and the Quadrantids are named for old constellation Quadrans Muralis, whose name means the Mural Quadrant in Latin.

To those who aren’t intimately familiar with the history of every constellation in the sky, according to Sky and Telescope, Quadrans Muralis is no longer considered a constellation. It was established in 1795 by French astronomer Jerome Lalande, named after a tool he used to make his astronomical observations. (But, as always, you don’t need to look at the meteor shower’s radiant in order to see the meteors.)

Unlike most other meteor showers, the Quadrantids seem to come from an asteroid. Most meteor showers come from bits of debris left over from icy comets, leftover from past passages through Earth’s orbit. That doesn’t seem to be the case for the Quadrantids. According to EarthSky, while the “exact” story behind the Quadrantids is still something of a mystery, it is believed that the Quadrantids come from an asteroid called 2003 EH1.

In 2019, perhaps the moon's light will stay out of the way, making the meteor show easier to see.