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Quadrantids Meteor Shower 2018: How to watch the spectacular display of 'fireball' shooting stars in London and the UK

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 03/01/2018 Eleanor Rose

The Quadrantids meteor shower will light up the sky this evening with a spectacular display of "fireball" shooting stars.

Astronomers said hundreds of meteors with long, glowing tails will streak across the sky in a display that will reach its peak in London at about 10pm.

The rate of shooting stars from the Quadrantids is higher than that of the more famous meteor shower the Perseids and the celebrated Geminids.

It normally reaches between 60 to 200 meteors per hour, according to NASA.

Video: Meteor, resembling fireball, seen in the skies over UK on New Year's Eve (Sky News)


But the peak of the Quadrantids is far shorter than those of the other major meteor showers and lasts only a few hours meaning there is only a short window to view it

When can I see it?

The Quadrantids, known for its bright "fireball" meteors with long, glowing tails, is 2018's first major meteor shower.

The spectacle usually becomes active around the end of December and is visible in the second week of January. S

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The International Meteor Organisation predicts that the spectacular celestial display will peak at about 9 or 10pm UK time and be visible for a few hours.

Where will it be?

The shower's "radiant" - the point it appears to originate from - is located in the area between the constellations of Draco, Bootes and Ursa Major.

This spot of sky, described by the Society for Popular Astronomy as "rather bland", used to be occupied by the now-defunct constellation of Quadrans Muralis from which the shower takes its name.

Stargazers in the Northern hemisphere are the most likely to get a good view of the meteor shower.

In previous years, Alaska and Hawaii have been named the best spots in the US for watching the shower.

What will it look like?

NASA has described the Quadrantid's characteristic fireball meteors as "larger explosions of light and colour that can persist longer than an average meteor streak".

This is due to the fact fireballs originate from larger particles of material burning up in Earth's atmosphere.

NASA explains that meteors come from "leftover comet particles and bits from broken asteroids" emitting dust trails that the Earth passes through, allowing the debris to collide with the atmosphere where they then break up, resulting in a colourful display.

How can I increase my chances of seeing it?

Unfortunately this year, the shower nearly coincides with a “supermoon” full moon that took place on January 2 and could possibly make viewing difficult.

The Society of Popular Astronomers advised enthusiasts: "To minimise the effect of the moonlight, aim to keep the moon outside your field of view and, if possible, shaded from direct moonlight.

"Most importantly of all, wrap up well - January nights with clear skies can be very cold."

Best viewing spots will be in the countryside or large open spaces in cities such as London.

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