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Quadrantids Meteor Shower Will Peak Thursday Morning

Clouds may obscure our view when the first meteor shower of 2013 arrives. If so, don't despair: NASA is showing the Quadrantids in an online feed.

Quadrantids Meteor Shower Will Peak Thursday Morning

Don't blink, or you might miss the first meteor shower of the year.

The high-powered Quadrantids meteor shower should peak just before dawn Thursday with up to 80 meteors per hour.

The display in the sky is expected to "last only a few hours,"  according to NASA.com.

The meteors are believed to be pieces of a comet that broke apart centuries ago. The fragments will enter the Earth's atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth's surface, according to NASA.

But Mother Nature is working against would-be Quadrantids viewers in Northern California.

High clouds associated with a system approaching the Pacific Northwest overnight may hamper viewing of the meteor shower, especially north of San Francisco, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters there say the best viewing times will be between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Thursday.

If clouds don't obscure the meteor shower, the glowing moon may outshine it. The meteor shower is peaking while the moon is in its bright gibbous phase, according to Space.com.

Viewing tips from NASA:

  • To view Quadrantids, go outside and allow your eyes 30-45 minutes to adjust to the dark.
  • Look straight up, allowing your eyes to take in as much of the sky as possible.
  • You will need cloudless, dark skies away from city lights to see the shower.

Like most meteor showers, Quadrantids is named for the constellation from which it appears to radiate.

However, the  Quadrantids' constellation no longer exists. The constellation Quadrans Muralis, or Mural Quadrant, was created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795 and was located between the constellations of Bootes the Herdsman and Draco the Dragon.

When the International Astronomical Union devised a list 88 modern constellations in 1922, it did not include Quadrans Muralis. So the meteor shower retained its name, though the constellation was rendered obsolete.

These days, Quadrantids radiate from an area inside the constellation Boötes, near the Big Dipper.

If the weather doesn't cooperate, you can watch a Ustream feed of the meteor shower on Jan. 2-4 on NASA.com.

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