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Quadrantids meteor shower to peak Tuesday night

For night sky enthusiasts, 2012 promises to start with a shower. A meteor shower, that is.

The Quadrantids meteor shower will peak on Tuesday night. The peak is short, with viewers able to see as many as 130 meteors flashing across the sky.

A lesser number, perhaps as many as 50 in an hour, may be seen until sometime shortly before dawn on Wednesday morning.

Viewers should look for a place far from city lights to observe the phenomenon, which appears to the eye to originate in the constellation Bootes.

In fact, the Quadrantids come from an asteroid called 2003 EH1, which scientists think is part of a comet that broke apart in the late fifteenth century.

The meteor shower gets its name from a defunct constellation called Quadrans Muralis, which used to show up on star maps between Bootes, Draco, Hercules, and Ursa Major. Quadrans Muralis ceased to be a recognized constellation in 1922, when the International Astronomical Union adopted the modern list of 88 constellations.

The Quadrantids are not visible in the southern hemisphere, and the weather during the northern winter can make it difficult for viewers to see them.

For this reason NASA’s Ames Research Center conducted an airborne mission to observe the shower in January 2008. Scientists flew from San Jose, California over the North Pole and back in a Gulfstream jet to determine when the Quadrantids peak and how the meteors disperse.

The best view of the meteor shower will be to the north – northeast part of the sky.

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