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The Quadrantids: First Meteor Shower of 2013 is Jan. 3 Early Morning Hours

Named after a constellation that no longer is recognized, the Quadrantids may be difficult to hit at the right time. But stay up late Wednesday night or rise early Thursday and look toward the Big Dipper. You could be rewarded.

OK, fans of celestial happenings, get ready for the first meteor shower of 2013.

Here come the Quadrantids!

These may not be easy meteor showers to see.  According to writer Bruce McClure in EarthSky.org, the narrow window of peak Quandrantid-watching could come about 1300 hours Universal Time, which is 5 a.m. Pacific Standard time. 

A Quadrantid shower can match the meteor rates of the better known Perseid and Geminid showers that we saw in August and December, EarthSky wrote. With the Quadrantids' narrow peak, and imprecise timing, you may not see a lot, or you could be rewarded with a good show. No matter where you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the best time to watch is between midnight and dawn, local time, EarthSky recommended

As always, head for places away from the city lights, such as the Albert Byrne Preserve or, if you're fortuntate enough to have a secluded and open-to-the-stars patch of earth in Los Altos Hills, head to your backyard.

The origin of the name, Quadrantids, may be the perfect question to stump trivia contestants. Like most meteor showers, the Quadrantids are named for the constellations from which they appear to radiate. The name comes from the constellation Quadrans Muralis, created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795, located between the constellations of Bootes the Herdsman and Draco the Dragon. But then, a bit like Pluto, Quadrans Muralis fell upon hard times.

Fast-forward 127 years. The International Astronomical Union came up with a list 88 modern constellations in 1922. It did not include a constellation Quadrans Muralis, rendering the constellation, in one vote, obsolete. The meteor shower's name is all that remains to remind us of the Lalande's constellation.

The radiant point for the Quadrantids is now considered to be at the northern tip of Bootes, near the Big Dipper asterism in our sky, not far from Bootes’ brightest star Arcturus, EarthSky.com says.

EarthSky.org reminds readers that the predicted peak time is a best guess, not something to set your watch to. Different sources set it at different times. It could happen several hours later, which push it into the daylight hours.

It’s best to have a dark sky, so it’s not helpful that the waning moon is not waning enough at this time. If you’re up — or make a point of being up — look skywards toward the Big Dipper and hope for the best.

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