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First Meteor Shower of the Year Set to Peak Friday

Jan 02, 2014 11:36 AM EST
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The first meteor shower of the new year is just around the corner, with the peak predicted to take place Jan. 3 at approximately 2:30 p.m. EST.

Unlike the more famous Perseid and Geminid showers, the Quadrantids last only a few hours, peaking at some 120 meteors per hour at its busiest point, according to the American Meteor Society. Given its radiant, or point in the sky where the meteors appear to originate from, only those individuals at latitudes north of 51 degrees south will be able to see the event. This year, the shower's timing means it will favor the eastern half of Asia, though Sky & Telescope notes that one prediction anticipates the shower's arrival will come early enough to be seen before dawn from North America's West Coast.

The Quadrantids are named after the defunct constellation Quadrans Muralis, mapped by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795 and located between the constellations Bootes and Draco. No longer recognized by astronomers, the constellation lasted just long enough to have a meteor shower first seen in 1825 named after it.

According to Universe Today, while the shower has only been studied sporadically, researchers modeling the "Quads" determined that the meteor stream experiences oscillations time-to-time due to interference from Jupiter.

One similarity the Quads do share with the Geminids is that their origins can also be traced back to an asteroid. Known as 2003 EH1, the asteroid is suspected to have once been a part of a comet that fragmented hundreds of years ago.

The meteors scheduled to streak across the sky Friday will be entering the atmosphere at roughly 90,000 mph, causing them to burn up approximately 50 miles above the Earth's surface.

Anyone who catches a glimpse of a meteor is encourage to make note of it on the International Meteor Organization's and American Meteor Society's websites.

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