The First Meteor Shower of 2020 Will Light Up the Sky With Spectacular Fireballs Tonight
The new year has arrived. If you haven't had enough fireworks and confetti, Asteroid 2003 EH1 is going to put more lights in the sky during the first days of January.
The Quadrantid meteor shower will be the first meteor shower of 2020. You won't be able to spend New Year's Eve looking at the dazzling display, though, because the show doesn't peak until the night of January 3 into the morning of January 4. It's a shower with a hard peak, meaning it's at its best -- and you'll see the most meteors -- over the course of just a few hours.
Nonetheless, the brief show can be spectacular because, like the Geminids, it's a shower that produces fireballs. As you might have already guessed, fireballs are brighter and more brilliant than most meteors. They're actually larger particles from a long-gone comet falling into Earth's atmosphere, making them much more spectacular.
When to watch the Quadrantid meteor shower
At its peak, the Quadrantids can produce around 25 meteors per hour under optimal conditions. But that's going to be a short-lived burst. The shower is expected to hit its peak the night of January 3 into the morning of January 4, with the best viewing coming around 3am EST on January 4, per the International Meteor Organization.
Once you're out there, look for the constellations Bootes and Draco. The radiant -- the point from which the meteors will appear to emanate -- is between them. However, you don't just want to stare at that point. The meteors will be streaking away from the radiant, so position yourself to see as much of the sky as possible.
Where to watch the Quadrantid meteor shower
Viewers in the US are well-positioned to view the display. It's best seen from the northern hemisphere. Though, despite the fireballs, you aren't going to see much if you're watching from a city. You'll need to get out of town, far from any bright lights that could interfere with your viewing. You'll also need good weather since you won't see anything through the clouds.
That night there will be a first-quarter moon that sets just after midnight, per Time and Date. So, unlike basically every meteor shower in 2019, there won't be much in terms of interference from the moon.
Get out there, pretend it's not cold, and enjoy the start of a new year.