It will take a dedicated skywatcher to catch the first and largest meteor shower of 2024.

That's for two reasons: lateness and coldness.

One, the Quadrantid meteor shower is for late-night folks. It will peak from midnight to 4 a.m. Thursday morning. Set your alarm Wednesday evening for 11:30 p.m. to get up and ready to go outside at midnight to catch the first of the sky show, or go out by 3 a.m. Thursday to catch its end.

Two, it will be cold in Alabama as the Quadrantids come calling. Low temperatures of 31 to 35 degrees are predicted across Alabama early morning Thursday.

For dedicated skywatchers, it can be worth the early hour and chill. From 25 to 200 meteors per hour are expected to be visible. The January 4 Quadrantid meteor shower is expected to be the largest of 2024. Details on the Quadrantid Meteor shower here from NASA.

Viewing of meteor showers is always dependent on local cloud cover, and that looks like good news. Across Alabama, clear skies are now expected for early Thursday morning, January 4. Check your local forecast.  

The Quadrantids, which peak during early January each year, are considered by NASA to be one of the best annual meteor showers. Most meteor showers have a two-day peak, which makes catching sight of these other meteors more convenient. The Quadrantids' peak is much shorter – only a few hours. The reasons the peak is shorter are the shower's thin stream of particles and the fact that the Earth crosses the stream at a perpendicular angle.

Quadrantids are also known for bright fireball meteors. Fireballs are large explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. This happens because fireballs originate from larger particles of material and are brighter.

NASA gives these tips for viewing:

"Find an area well away from the city or street lights. Come prepared for winter weather with layered clothing, an overcoat, a sleeping bag, a blanket, or a lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing northeast and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient – the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse."

The moon will be 51% full. You can block the moon and its interfering light by placing yourself where a tree or building blocks the moon out of sight.

Look toward the northern half of the sky.

Find more details from the American Meteor Society.

1819 News is your source for astronomical events viewable in Alabama in 2024.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim His handiwork." - Psalm 19:1

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

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