How To Watch The First Meteor Shower Of 2016 Welcome In The New Year
In the early hours of Monday morning, the sky will light up with the first meteor shower of 2016 — an annual event called the Quadrantid meteor shower, which will peak around 3 a.m. ET on Jan. 4. The Quadrantid shower is unique because it has such a sharp peak time — some showers can be seen over multiple nights, but the Quadrantid meteors only appear for a few hours, so Monday morning is your only chance to see the shower.
Unlike last year, when the moon was full, there shouldn't be too much light interference from the waning crescent moon. If conditions are perfect, between 60 and 200 meteors per hour will be visible from the shower's peak until dawn, so the shower will definitely be worth waking up early (or staying up late) for the chance to see the astronomical event. Whether you're an avid stargazer or a first time admirer, here are some useful tips for making the most of the meteor shower.
First, don't get your hopes up too much — the shower might favor North America, or it might favor Europe, depending on which astronomic model ends up being correct. But even if North America doesn't get as good a view of the shower as Europe, you should still be able to see the meteors clearly depending on where you live.
If you live in a big city, you're going to want to get as far away as possible for the best view of the shower. Refer to this light pollution map to see how your area is affected by light pollution and identify some surrounding areas you might be able to travel to in order to find a prime location. Also, get to your shower watching spot about 15 to 20 minutes early to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark.
When the time comes and the shower starts, it's also important to make sure you're looking in the right direction. The shower's radiant point, the place in the sky from which the meteor will seem to appear, will be in the northeastern sky, forming a triangle between the Big and Little Dipper constellations.
If you plan on going out, make sure to dress warm. Much of the Midwest and Northeast will have temperatures around or below 0 degrees early Monday morning, and even being out for a few minutes in that kind of weather can be dangerous. Even the Southern states will be looking at temperatures close to freezing, so if you're going to watch the shower, bring a blanket and your favorite hot drink. Finally, be sure to check your local weather forecast in case of cloudy skies — it would be a huge bummer if you woke up at 1 a.m. and clouds obscured your view.
Even if it's hard to wrench yourself out of bed at that time in the morning, you should definitely get up to go see the meteors. The Quadrantid shower features extra bright lights, so this could be the best meteor shower of the year. Good luck stargazing!