2012's first meteor shower promises to be quite brilliant because the moon will not be up to outshine the event. The Quadrantid meteor shower will peak Jan. 4, and unlike the Geminid shower in December 2011, it won't be hard to see because of a waning moon that gives off too much light interference. There could be up to nearly 100 meteors per hour, according to NASA, and the best time to watch is around 2 a.m. EST.
The Quandrantids are named after an extinct constellation and Jan. 4 is the only time to see them. It's a one night only event. Like the Geminids, the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid, called 2003 EH1. Studies show this body could very well be a piece of a comet which broke apart several centuries ago, and that the meteors you will see before dawn on Jan. 4 are the small debris from this brake-up. After hundreds of years orbiting the sun, they will enter our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth's surface. Named after the constellation Quadrans Muralis (mural quadrant), the meteor shower was first seen in 1825. The constellation itself was named after French astronomer Jerome Lalande and is located between the constellations Bootes and Draco. Astronomers do not recognize this constellation anymore, but the name Quadrans does represent an early astronomical instrument used to watch and track stars.
Because of the location of the constellation, only northern hemisphere watchers will be able to see the shower. Meteor showers occur when Earth travels through leftover debris from comets or asteroids. They are often known as "shooting stars," because of the way they streak across the sky. A waxing gibbous moon will set at around 3 a.m. local time, so as long as there are clear skies, conditions should be good for meteor watching into pre-dawn hours.