Looking to the Stars: NASA Touts ‘Beautiful’ Meteor Shower Wednesday

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NASA / MEO / B. Cooke

False-color image of a rare early Quadrantid, captured by a NASA meteor camera in 2010.

Heads up for stargazers: an annual meteor shower early Wednesday morning promises a “brief, beautiful show” worth waking – or staying – up for this year.

The Quadrantids, a little-known meteor shower named after an extinct constellation, should peak for a few hours after 3 a.m. on Jan. 4. The agency has billed it as “an excellent chance for hardy souls to start the year off with some late-night meteor watching.” (Alas, it will only be visible from the northern hemisphere.)

The shower will have a maximum rate of about 100 meteors per hour, varying between 60-200, according to NASA’s press release. Its scientists believe Quadrantids originate from an asteroid – called 2003 EH1 – which broke apart several centuries ago.

The small debris expected to be visible Wednesday has spent hundreds of years orbiting the sun and enters our atmosphere at 90,000 mph. It will burn up 50 miles above Earth’s surface, producing the much hoped-for visible shower. Or as NASA puts it: “a fiery end to a long journey.”

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