Meteor Shower - The First of 2014

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One of the best meteor showers known to star gazers which comes around every year at the start - sort of like a New Year's greeting from the Universe - will peak on Thursday, likely around 20:00 UTC.

The Quadrantid shower's intensity is similar to the Geminid and Perseid showers--some 50 to 100 meteors per hour-- however, it only lasts a brief time--just a few hours. And because it is short lived, only the dark side of the planet gets to enjoy the show.

This year, the lucky sky gazers will be central and eastern Asia, they will have the benefit of the full shower. The peak time to view will be around 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Friday evening, when this splendid show will hit the northeastern sky.

For the U.S. sky gazers - the best place to try to see some shooting stars, is to look high in the northern sky, near the Big Dipper. The farther north you are, the better - those in the south probably won't be able to see much without a telescope.

The hours before dawn on January 3 and 4 are the best viewing times, said. It is best viewed from northerly latitudes.

“You need a dark, open sky, and you need to look in a general north-northeast direction for an hour or so before dawn,” said.

Since it will be Friday afternoon along the East Coast and noon on the West Coast, anyone wanting to see anything will have to catch them before dawn or wait until after sunset. Although the peak will have passed, some meteors are sure to dazzle. You might catch sight of perhaps 10 to 20 "Quads" during an hour's watch.

The bonus for those who are unable to or have missed the peak - they might get a spectacular show on Friday evening perhaps witnessing "earthgrazers" - or meteors that appear to come close to earth and to skim across our atmosphere, with long, bright paths. The Quadrantids at that time will be low in the northwest sky.

The Quadrantid meteor shower is named after a constellation that no longer exists. The constellation Quadrans Muralis (Mural Quadrant), was named in 1795, and early descriptions of the annual shower said they radiated from it.

When the International Astronomical Union met in 1922 they listed 88 recognized constellations, however, the Quadrans Muralis was not included on that list, even though the meteor shower's name remains the same.

Image via YouTube