The first meteor shower of the year will reach its peak this week and, clear skies permitting, should be visible from the UK.
Here’s how to give yourself the best possible chance of catching a glimpse of the spectacle, and everything you need to know about the meteor shower.
How to watch the Quadrantid meteor shower 2022
The Quadrantid meteor shower is visible between 28 December and 12 January. However, it is peaking between Monday 3 and Tuesday 4 January.
Its exact peak is predicted between 8:00pm and 10:00pm on 3 January, although this can vary slightly.
The Quadrantids are also known for peaking sharply for a few hours, rather than other showers which can last for several days.
However, this year’s event coincides with a new moon and after sunset, so stargazers in the UK should have an good chance of getting a clear view of the spectacle (if the weather plays ball).
The Quadrantid shower can reach a maximum rate of around 120 meteors per hour on a clear night, and is known for creating blue meteors with occasional fireballs.
Its meteors appear to emerge from the Boötes constellation, near the Big Dipper in the night sky.
You can see the Quadrantids with the naked eye, so no need for a telescope, but you might need to wait for a little while.
To give yourself the best chance of spotting them, you should try to find an open space as far away from street lamps and other forms of light pollution as possible.
You might need to give yourself 20 minutes for your eyes to become suitably accustomed to the dark, so packing a fold-out chair (and keeping warm) is never a bad idea.
What is the Quarantids meteor shower?
The Quadrantid meteor shower is one of the strongest and most consistent of the year.
Its name comes from Quadrans Muralis, a constellation created in 1795 by French astronomer Jérôme Lalande, from where the meteors appeared to radiate.
The constellation was made obsolete in 1922 when the International Astronomical Union devised a new list of modern constellations – which did not include Quadrans Muralis – but the meteor shower still retains the name ‘Quadrantids’.
According to research completed by the astronomer Peter Jenniskens, the origin of the particles that cause the meteors is 2003 EH1, an asteroid that is thought to be an extinct comet.
The short peak of the Quadrantids is “due to the shower’s thin stream of particles and the fact that the Earth crosses the stream at a perpendicular angle,” Nasa explains.