Quadrantid meteor shower peaks early Thursday morning

DENVER - A meteor shower producing up to 100 meteors per hour will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere late  Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.

The Quadrantid meteor shower will peak between 3 a.m. and dawn Thursday, for you early risers.

To see the meteors, find a spot with a clear northern horizon and look for the shooting stars to radiate from near the handle of the Big Dipper.

A meteor shower is usually caused by Earth passing through a cloud of tiny particles left behind by a passing comet.  In the case of the Quadrantids, Earth will pass through the dust particles of the minor planet 2003 EH1.

After midnight, local time, the sky is facing the direction the Earth is traveling around the sun, so it is running "into" the debris path. The tiny particles get ionized in the upper atmosphere and appear as bright flashes of light, as they hit the Earth's atmosphere at 90,000 miles per hour.

The Quadrantids are well known for producing fireballs, according to astronomers, but the shower doesn't go back very far in history, having first been observed nearly 200 years ago.  The Quadrantids derive their name from the constellation of Quadrans Muralis which was removed from star charts in 1922 because there were too many constellations.

Unlike other meteor showers, the Quadrantids last only part of one night.

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