With many in-person New Year’s Eve celebrations and fireworks displays either scaled back or canceled altogether this week, fans of flashy events taking place in the night sky may have been disappointed. But all is not lost. In fact, nature has its own lights display for us to enjoy as we ease into 2021. It comes in the form of the annual Quadrantids meteor shower, which peaks tonight. Here’s how to see it.
What are the Quadrantids?
Technically, the Quadrantids meteor shower began last year—December 28, 2020, to be specific—but they peak tonight. And what’s so special about these meteors? In addition to being the first of the year, they’re also some of the best, according to NASA, thanks to coming in swiftly (at a rate of 60 to 200 meteors per hour), and because they are bright fireballs that often come colorful trails.
How to watch the Quadrantids at their peak
Like most astronomical events, catching the Quadrantids at their peak takes some planning. While many meteor showers have a peak that lasts a day or two, this one is over in a matter of a few hours—so it’s important to get your timing right.
There’s also the challenge of the waning gibbous moon, which will be 84% full tonight, making it harder to spot the less-prominent meteors. (Though the fact that the Quadrantids involve bright fireballs means some should be visible even with the bright moon.)
There is no set timetable for the peak tonight, though experts estimate that it will likely be between 2 a.m. and dawn on the early morning of January 3rd. The Quadrantids will be most visible in the Northern Hemisphere, specifically from the western United States. To learn more about the Quadrantids—including what’s going on with them this year and how they’ll be affected by tonight’s weather—EarthSky has you covered.