What is a meteor shower?

When space rocks known as meteoroids—often no bigger than grains of sand—collide with Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up and create tails that look like bright streaks. These are what we call meteors. If they reach the ground, they’re called meteorites. (The Quadrantids won’t turn into meteorites because they’re too small to survive the descent.)

On a typical night, you might expect to see a handful of meteors per hour—anywhere from two to 16, according to the American Meteor Society, depending on the time of day and year. When Earth plows through a stream of meteoroids, creating a much higher rate of meteors, we call it a meteor shower.

Most meteor showers originate from comets, which produce lots of meteoroids that create a nighttime display if they intersect with Earth’s orbit. The Quadrantids, on the other hand, come from an asteroid called 2003 EH1, which orbits the sun every five-and-a-half years.

How do I get the best view of the Quadrantid meteor shower?

Like the supermoon, you can watch the meteor shower sans special glasses and without the aid of a telescope. If you’re in a cold area, dress warmly and grab a blanket to lie down (ideally somewhere far away from light pollution). It’ll take 20-30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.

The shower will be visible below the Ursa Minor constellation, most commonly called the Little Dipper in North America, and the Big Dipper. If you’re having trouble identifying both constellations, look for the brighter Big Dipper, and use the two stars that trace the outer edge of its ladle to point you to Polaris, the North Star. Look beneath the constellations to catching the falling meteors’ tails.

Image for article titled How to watch 2018’s first major meteor shower this week

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