For a striking display of shooting stars, look up into the sky’s inky blackness in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning.
The 2020 Quadrantids meteor shower, usually one of the strongest showers of the year, peaks Friday night and early Saturday.
Although the celestial event lasts until January 10, the greatest number meteors will be visible for just a couple of hours during this peak. (That differentiates the Quadrantids from other meteor showers like the Geminids and Perseids, which peak over couple of days.)
Here’s when and where to get the best view of the Quadrantids meteor shower.
The peak starts at 3:20 a.m. ET
In the US and Canada, the Quadrantids’ peak is expected to arrive at 3:20 a.m. ET.
At that time, more than 100 shooting stars could be visible per hour this year, according to Space.com. The American Meteor Society suggests viewers head outside an hour before the peak begins in case the show starts early.
The moon is currently waxing and at 60% illumination, so it shouldn’t impact the view for observers on the East Coast. After this year’s show, however, annual Quadrantids viewers will have to wait until 2028 to get visibility conditions as ideal as those happening on Saturday morning.
The best way to maximize your potential of seeing meteors, according to American Meteor Society, is to face the sky’s northeast quadrant and look about halfway up. Then watch for at least an hour, since a shorter window could coincide with a brief period of low shooting-star activity.
For ideal gazing, find a dark location away from city lights and give your eyes time to adjust.
Look for fireball meteors
The Quadrantid meteor shower is known for its bright fireball meteors with glowing tails . These shooting stars, according to NASA, are “larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak.”
That’s because, unlike most meteor showers (which come from comets), the Quadrantids come from an asteroid called 2003 EH1.
Capturing this particular meteor shower on film can be challenging, though.
“While the average Quadrantid is fairly bright, this shower is not photogenic unless you take time exposures during maximum activity,” the American Meteor Society says.
If you miss this display, the next impressive meteor shower — the Lyrids — will peak on April 21 and 22.