Starry, Starry Night: 2012's First Meteor Shower

False-color image of a rare early Quadrantid, captured by a NASA meteor camera in 2010. (NASA/MEO/B. Cooke)
The first meteor shower of the year will be visible in the wee hours of the morning over our region. A short drive north or west of the city could treat you to some unusual stargazing.

This isn't your every day shooting star experience.

"This is a very unique meteor shower. It's called the Quadrantids and normally it's awful."

That's Dr. Carolyn Sumners, vice president for the Astronomy department at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Sumners says usually weather conditions are terrible for viewing the Quadrantids, but not so this year.

"The shower will peak at 1:30 Central Standard Time. We'll be on the side of the Earth going into the shower, that's great news. And there may be as many as 60 to 75 meteors per hour. These are blueish, they're bright, they leave long trails, so it's a very pretty meteor shower. More importantly, it's not one you see every year."

The meteor shower will be visible across most of the U.S. and will have its best showing on the east coast. Sumners says there's just one problem for viewing the shower in the Houston area.

"The only thing that can cause a Houstonian problems, is Houston. Houston is so bright that if you can't see any stars, you're not going to see any meteors. So what you may want to do if you want to see this very unique shower, you may want to try to leave town and go north-northeast out of the city. So that you're looking over the Piney Woods or whatever, over a dark area that doesn't have much light."

Sumners says unlike other meteor showers which sometimes last for two or three days, the Quadrantids will only last for about six hours.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...