Meteor shower to kick off New Year

Jan. 2, 2013 at 2:37 PM

GREENBELT, Md., Jan. 2 (UPI) -- A little-known meteor shower will start the New Year off with an opportunity for some early morning meteor watching on Thursday, NASA says.

The Quadrantids, which will be visible mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, have a maximum rate of about 80 per hour, although a waning gibbous moon will mean some of the fainter meteors will be hard to spot, the space agency reported Wednesday.

Unlike the more well-known Perseid and Geminid meteor showers the Quadrantids only last a few hours, so Thursday morning between 3 a.m. EST and dawn will be the only chance to see them as they enter Earth's atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above the surface, the agency said.

Like the Geminids, the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid, 2003 EH1, thought to have broken up centuries ago.

The Quadrantids got their name from the constellation of Quadrans Muralis (mural quadrant), created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795, and although the constellation is no longer recognized by astronomers, the name was around long enough to give the meteor shower, first seen in 1825, its Quadrantids tag.

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