Quadrantid meteor shower fireworks ring in the new year!
Transcript:What's Up for January? Meteor shower fireworks ring in the New Year!
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
If you didn't catch last month's Geminid meteor shower, don't worry about it.
The January Quadrantids will be just as good - and maybe even better, depending on your location.
They peak on January 3rd and 4th, which is a dark, new-moon night this month.
This means that there won't be any annoying moonlight to spoil the fireworks display.
This could be the best shower of the year.
The peak of this meteor shower is best seen from Europe.
Here in the Western Hemisphere the radiant doesn't even rise till after midnight.
And this shower has a very sharp peak, which means that most meteors are visible for only several hours, instead of several days, like the famous Perseids of August.
Look in the northeast between and below the familiar Big and Little Dippers and the bright star Arcturus. This shower isn't named for the modern constellation in which it appears,but for an obsolete one called Quadrans Muralis.
It depicts an early instrument called a Mural Quadrant,which was used to observe and measure stellar positions. It's similar to today's sextant.
There's more to enjoy this wintry month.
Venus, Mercury and Saturn continue to dazzle early risers before dawn.
And by month-end Saturn rises before midnight.
Jupiter, on the other hand, sets before 9:30 p.m. by month-end.
In February the repurposed spacecraft Stardust-NExT will fly by comet Tempel 1, which was first visited by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft in 2005.
You can learn more about our planetary family tree at solarsystem.nasa.gov/yss for Year of the Solar System.
You can learn all about other NASA missions at www.nasa.gov