Stargazing: New Year's treat

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One of the most intense and briefest meteor showers of the year, the Quadrantids, will peak between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. overnight Thursday into Friday morning. Because the show is usually only a few hours long and often obscured by winter weather, it doesn't have the same celebrated status as the Geminids or Perseids. However, the Quadrantid shower can produce up to 60 "shooting stars" per hour before dawn.

Quadrantid meteors take their name from an obsolete constellation, Quadrans Muralis, found in early 19th-century star atlases between Draco, Hercules and Bootes. The shower's radiant (a point in the sky from which meteors appear to stream) will lie about 30 degrees above the northeastern horizon near the handle of the Big Dipper at 2 a.m. Quadrantid meteors can appear anywhere in the heavens, but their trails will point back toward the radiant.

To view January's only meteor shower, simply go outside after midnight and face northeast. Bundle up and observe from a location that's as dark as possible.

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