The first of the 2012 meteor showers – The Quadrantids – peaks on the night of the 3rd and 4th of January.
The Quadrantid meteor shower is one of the major annual meteor showers and often performs well under ideal observing conditions.
The Quadrantids can be quite impressive with a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of up to 120 meteors per hour at their peak (under perfect conditions) and can sometimes produce rates of 60 to 200 meteors per hour. The peak is quite narrow lasting only a few hours, with activity either side of the peak sometimes being weak, but well worth observing.
Due to a waxing gibbous Moon, the best time to look is after midnight and through the early hours, plenty of time for us to see the peak build up to 07:20 UT on the 4th, but the Quadrantids are active from December 28th through January 12th so we should have plenty of chances to spot some shooting stars.
The radiant of the Quadrantids (where the meteors radiate from) is in the constellation of Boötes, however many people are misled in thinking they need to look at the radiant to see the meteors – this is not true. Meteors will come from the radiant, but will appear anywhere in the whole sky at random. You can trace the meteors (shooting stars) path back to the radiant to confirm if it is a meteor from the meteor shower.
You don’t need a telescope or binoculars to watch meteor showers, just your eyes. To enjoy a meteor shower and spot as many meteors as possible, you need to try and place yourself away from bright lights and make yourself comfortable. Meteor showers are best observed if you use a reclining garden chair or something similar so you can keep your gaze on the sky as long as possible. This will give you the best results.
For more information on how to observe and enjoy the Quadrantid meteor shower, visit meteorwatch.org