QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER: Earth is about to pass through a narrow stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, source of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. According to the International Meteor Organization, the shower will peak on Monday morning, Jan. 4th, during the hours around 0800 UT (3 a.m. ET). The timing favors observers in North America who could see dozens of meteors per hour flowing from a radiant near the North Star. Too cold to go outside? Cozy up by the fire and listen to Quadrantid radar echoes on Space Weather Radio. Meteors from a Shattered Comet: the Quadrantids The Quadrantid meteor shower is one of the year's best, often producing more than 100 meteors per hour from a radiant near the North Star. In 2016 forecasters expect the shower to peak around 08:00 UT on Monday, January 4. The peak is brief, typically lasting no more than an hour or so, and it does not always occur at the forecasted time, so observers are encouraged to be alert for meteors throughout the early hours of January 4th. Although the Quadrantids are a major shower, they are seldom observed. One reason is weather. The shower peaks in early January when northern winter is in full swing. Storms and cold tend to keep observers inside. Above: In 2008, NASA-supported scientists flew an airplane above the clouds and over the Arctic Circle to gain a good view of the shower. Jeremie Vaubaillon of Caltech recorded these Quadrantids streaking through the aurora borealis outside the window of the plane. [more] Another reason is brevity. The shower doesn't last long, a few hours at most. Even dedicated meteor watchers are likely to miss such a sharp peak. In his classic book Meteor Astronomy, Prof. A.C.B. Lovell lamented that "useful counts of the Quadrantid rate were made in [only] 24 Januaries out of a possible 68 between 1860 and 1927. ... The maximum rate appears to have occurred in 1932 (80 per hour) although the results are influenced by unfavorable weather." The source of the Quadrantid meteor shower was unknown until Dec. 2003 when Peter Jenniskens of the NASA Ames Research Center found evidence that Quadrantid meteoroids come from 2003 EH1, an "asteroid" that is probably a piece of a comet that broke apart some 500 years ago. Earth intersects the orbit of 2003 EH1 at a perpendicular angle, which means we quickly move through any debris. That's why the shower is so brief. Quadrantid meteors take their name from an obsolete constellation, Quadrans Muralis, found in early 19th-century star atlases between Draco, Hercules, and Bootes. It was removed, along with a few other constellations, from crowded sky maps in 1922 when the International Astronomical Union adopted the modern list of 88 officially-recognized constellations. The Quadrantids, which were "re-zoned" to Bootes after Quadrans Muralis disappeared, kept their name--possibly because another January shower was already widely-known to meteor watchers as the "Bootids."