WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

New year to have a meteoric start

Posted January 2
Updated January 3

A sliver of Venus has shown brightly at sunset in recent days. (Northampton County) Photo by Ken Christison.

With mostly clear skies expected this weekend, the new year will get off to a nice astronomical start with the annual Quadrantids meteor shower.

The Quadrantids, named for the ancient constellation Quadrans Muralis, will be most visible for just a few hours before dawn Saturday morning, Jan. 4. The Quadrantids are very different than other meteor showers, which may be visible for days.

Look to the east a few hours before sunrise, below the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Dipper). A maximum of 80 meteors per hour are expected as Earth moves through debris left by comet 2003 EH1, which broke up about 500 years ago. The bright star to the right and below the big dipper is Arcturus. To the right of Arcturus, look for orangy-red Mars.

This week is also good time to observe Jupiter rising on the eastern Horizon shortly after sunset. The Sun, Earth and Jupiter will line up as Jupiter reaches opposition on Sunday, Jan. 5. The gas giant will be about an Earth-sun distance (1 AU) closer than its average 5.2 AU (483 million miles) distance from Earth. Jupiter probably won’t look any bigger but it will appear nearly twice as bright as it does this summer.

Also, look to the opposite horizon for Venus while you can. Venus has phases just like our moon. The Venusian equivalent of first quarter occurred last Halloween and the planet has reduced to the thin sliver we’ve seen our evening skies recently.

The sun, Venus and Earth will line up when Venus reaches inferior conjunction on Jan. 11, hiding Venus from our view.

About a week later, we will see a sliver of Venus as it emerges, but in pre-dawn skies instead.

Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.

7 Comments

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  • Raleighmomof3 Jan 3, 5:55 p.m.

    that must have been so cool to see it at Biltmore! Did they charge extra? ;)

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Jan 3, 4:26 p.m.

    Love these things, and especially love the way WRAL tells us exactly where to look, and when.

  • Obamacare prevails again Jan 3, 3:21 p.m.

    It was last night.......at Biltmore.......

  • admin39 Jan 3, 3:06 p.m.

    It was this morning, Jan 3rd. -Red Riding Hood

    These kind of things happen over many days, not at specific point in time. The maximum will be tomorrow morning. I'll be up and watching.

  • Obamacare prevails again Jan 3, 2:29 p.m.

    Neat....I'll be up early watching it.

  • Red Riding Hood Jan 3, 2:27 p.m.

    It was this morning, Jan 3rd.

  • allpointshelp Jan 2, 9:16 p.m.

    I observed the Quadrantids last year and it was amazing! I've found great viewing information on this site: http://www.spacedex.com/quadrantids - Hope you all enjoy the show!