Geminid meteor streaks are seen above the Judean desert near the Israeli Kibbutz of Ein Gedi early December 14, 2012. The meteor display, known as the Geminid meteor shower because it appears to radiate from the constellation Gemini, is thought to be the result of debris cast off from an asteroid-like object called 3200 Phaethon. The shower is visible every December. (AFP Photo)
Stargazers can celebrate the New Year with a celestial fireworks display as the first meteor shower of 2013 will kick off the year’s night sky events this week.
The Quadrantid meteor shower is an annual meteor shower every January. While this year’s “shooting star” show is not expected to outshine some of the more spectacular meteor showers of 2012, it may give stargazers with clear, dark skies a great start to the New Year, the CBS News reported.
Skywatchers can see up to 40 meteors per hour, although moonlight will make faint meteors harder to spot, said officials with the Hubble Space Telescope in a January skywatching video guide.
The waning gibbous moon will be out in full force during the shower’s peak, but skywatchers in dark areas of the Northern Hemisphere during the wee hours of Thursday morning might still get a decent show.
Scientists suspect that the meteors of the Quadrantids are debris from the asteroid 2003 EH1 — the same source of the Geminid meteor shower every December. The asteroid itself may be a chunk from a shattered comet that broke into pieces several hundred years ago, NASA officials said in a statement.
The Quadrantid meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through a stream of debris from the comet. The fragments slam into the atmosphere at 90,000 mph and burn up 50 miles above the planet in a dazzling display.
The meteor shower is named for the outdated Quadrans constellation, which is no longer recognized by astronomers, according to NASA officials.
NASA is streaming the shower for free online from Jan. 2 to Jan. 4. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has a light-activated camera pointed to the sky to record and live-stream the meteor shower during its peak.