The Quadrantids Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight


The Quadrantids meteor shower, predicted to be one of the strongest meteor showers of 2024, is slated to peak tonight, January 3, into early tomorrow morning.

“The Quadrantids have one of the shortest peak periods, lasting only six hours,” writes The New York Times, highlighting one of the aspects of this year’s display that makes it difficult to photograph. Another issue is that the display, best viewed from the northern hemisphere, occurs in early January, when below-freezing nighttime temperatures and unsettled weather are common.

Further, the Moon, currently a waning gibbous, is nearly 60% illuminated tonight, which will drown out fainter nearby stars and meteors.

However, there remains good reason for photographers to head out into the night and try their luck, as the Quadrantid meteor shower can deliver 60 to 120 meteors per hour during its peak. The event has been going on since December 28 and is forecasted to continue until January 12, but it has an especially short peak period.

The Quadrantids, first recorded and subsequently named in the 1830s, originate from the northeast corner of the Bo├Âtes constellation and can be seen in the northeastern night sky. Space explains that viewers in the eastern United States and Canada should expect to see more meteors per hour tonight than in western regions. However, due to the Moon phase, Space predicts that viewers will probably see more like 20 or 30 meteors per hour, at best.

For those looking to achieve their best odds, it will be a late — or very early — endeavor. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada thinks the precise peak of this year’s Quadrantids display will be at 4 AM EST tomorrow morning (1 AM PST).

OM System Ambassador Peter Baumgarten’s fantastic and in-depth “A Complete Guide to Capturing Gorgeous Photos of the Night Sky” offers plenty of practical tips to help photographers take better night photos. For meteor showers, Baumgarten often uses time-lapse features and long exposures, ensuring the best odds for capturing something beautiful darting across the night sky.

Beyond the obvious camera gear, like a sturdy tripod, photographers braving the elements tonight in search of meteors should dress appropriately. Observing meteor showers is a test of patience as it is; doing so while cold and uncomfortable is a recipe for a concise and unproductive photo adventure.

Image credit: Photo by Mike Lewinski and used via CC BY 2.0 DEED license. Per the license terms, it is vital to note that Lewinski’s original image has been cropped for publication.