Countdown to First Meteor Shower of 2013

Posted January 1st, 2013 at 7:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. space agency, NASA, says pieces of an asteroid that have been orbiting the Sun for hundreds of years could delight skywatchers this week.

The Quadrantid meteors will blaze trails across the sky when they enter Earth's atmosphere at about 145,000 kilometers per hour and burn up 80 kilometers above the planet's surface.

It will be the first meteor shower of the year, and it will last only a few hours. Its peak is January 3 at approximately 14 hours UTC.

NASA says anyone located above 51 degrees south latitude will be able to see the Quadrantids, and that includes most of the world. The space agency adds that viewers with clear skies in Asia might have the chance to spot the largest number of meteors.

The Quadrantids have a maximum rate of about 80 per hour.

However, the Moon currently appears large and bright in the sky, and astronomers caution that this light will wash out many of the fiery meteors.

NASA says this meteor shower was first observed in 1825, and the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid called 2003 EH1.