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Where to Watch the First Meteor Shower of 2012...Tonight

January 3, 2012 at 4:01 PM | by | ()

As if you didn't get enough of staying up past your bedtime during the New Year celebrations this past weekend, another event tonight may get you up and out in the dark. It's the Quadrantid Meteor Shower!

This celestial light show is the first of 2012, and best viewed from rural areas along the Eastern seaboard of the United States down to Georgia, starting from around 3am until dawn. That means no show for city folk, since you'll need to be somewhere without lights (even street lights, preferably) to view the sky dark enough. In other words, it's the perfect evening for some cold weather camping, if you can handle it.

What you're in for, however, will be awesome, according to ABC News:

The Quadrantids are often the most intense of the year's regular meteor showers, but also one of the shortest. They happen when Earth passes through the narrow trail of debris left by an asteroid called 2003 EH1, so they only last a few hours. If it's cloudy where you are Wednesday morning, go back to bed and stay warm -- but if it's clear, astronomers say you could see 60-200 streaks across the sky per hour.

What you're seeing are tiny particles, some no larger than grains of sand, plunging into the atmosphere at speeds of up to 90,000 mph. They typically burn up -- a quick and spectacular death -- about 50 miles overhead.

As frequent overnight trippers to catch the annual Perseid showers in summer, we can say that if you've got a view to enjoy a meteor shower, it's completely worth the trouble.

[Photo: TWAN/National Geographic]

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