Quadrantid meteor shower 2023: When, where & how to see it

Meteor streaks across the star-studded sky with mountains below.
A Quadrantid meteor streaks through the sky over Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. (Image credit: Stocktrek Images via Getty Images)

The Quadrantid meteor shower is active between Dec. 28 and Jan. 12, and will peak between Jan. 3 and Jan. 4. 

Viewing conditions for the Quadrantids are not good this year as there will be an 89% illuminated moon during the peak, washing out the fainter meteors.

The Quadrantid meteor shower is produced when Earth passes through the debris or ice and dust left behind by asteroid 2003 EH1, which is likely an extinct comet, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com. "It was either a piece of a comet or a comet itself, and then it became extinct," which means that all the ice and other volatiles on the comet have evaporated, Cooke said. 

Related: Annual meteor shower viewing guide

"A lot of meteor showers last days — the Quadrantids last a few hours," Cooke said. As many as 100 Quadrantid meteors can be seen some years during the peak when Earth plows through the thickest part of the debris stream, Cooke continued, but only if skies are dark enough. Because they're faint, it's easy to miss many of the Quadrantids streaking across the sky.  

Where can you see the Quadrantid meteor shower?

Photographer Jeff Berkes captured several Quadrantid meteors in this long-exposure image taken in the Florida Keys on Jan. 2, 2012, during the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. (Image credit: Jeff Berkes)
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The Quadrantids are best seen by skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere (weather permitting of course).

Meteor showers are named after the constellations from which the meteors appear to emanate, known as the radiant. Unlike other meteor showers, the constellation from which the Quadrantids get their name — the Quadrans Muralis — no longer exists as it is now considered part of the constellation Bootes.

The easiest way to find it is to look north for the Big Dipper. Then, follow the "arc" of the Big Dipper's handle across the sky to the red giant star Arcturus, which anchors the bottom of Bootes.

Don't look directly at Bootes to find meteors, as the shooting stars will be visible throughout the sky. Make sure to move your gaze around the nearby constellations as meteors closer to the radiant have shorter trains (glowing trails of debris) and are more difficult to spot. If you only look at Bootes you might miss the more spectacular Quadrantids. 

How to see the Quadrantids

To best see the Quadrantid meteor shower, go to the darkest possible location, lean back and relax. You don't need equipment like telescopes or binoculars as the secret is to take in as much sky as possible and allow about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. 

If you want more advice on photographing the Quadrantids, check out our how-to photograph meteors and meteor showers guide. If you need imaging gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.  

A red flashlight, warm clothing, hot drink and a comfortable chair come in very useful during a night of meteor hunting.  (Image credit: Future)
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When is the best time to view the Quadrantid meteor shower?

The best time to view the Quadrantids is just before the break of dawn at about 6 a.m. local time — when the radiant of the shower is ascending the northeastern sky.

The Quadrantid meteor shower is active between Dec. 28 and Jan. 12 and will peak between Jan. 3 and Jan. 4, according to Royal Museums Greenwich (opens in new tab)

This year, the moon will be 89% illuminated at the time of the shower's peak. To calculate sunrise and moonrise times in your location check out this custom sunrise-sunset calculator.

What causes the Quadrantid meteor shower?

False-color image of a rare early Quadrantid, captured by a NASA meteor camera in 2010.  (Image credit: NASA/MEO/B. Cooke)
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The Quadrantids have a somewhat peculiar origin. While most meteor showers come to be from comet fragments, the body responsible for producing the Quadrantids is asteroid 2003 EH1, which astronomers sometimes call a "rock comet."

As the name of the asteroid implies, it was found very recently — in 2003 — by astronomer Peter Jenniskens, a meteor expert with the SETI Institute in California who concluded that 2003 EH1 was the parent body of the Quadrantids/ 

Adding another layer of intrigue, some astronomers believe 2003 EH1 is the remainder of comet C/1490 Y1 (opens in new tab), which was lost to history after a prominent meteor shower was mentioned in Chinese records in 1490. It is possible the sky display came from a breakup of part of the comet.

Additional information

Have you seen a fireball recently? Report the sighting (opens in new tab) to the American Meteor Society to help contribute to fireball research. Take a tour of meteors and meteorites through history on this Google Arts & Culture feature (opens in new tab) courtesy of Adler Planetarium.  

Editor's note: If you captured an amazing photo of video of the Quadrantid meteor shower and would like to share it with Space.com for a story or gallery, send images and comments to: spacephotos@space.com

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Daisy Dobrijevic
Reference Writer

Daisy Dobrijevic joined Space.com in February 2022 as a reference writer having previously worked for our sister publication All About Space magazine as a staff writer. Before joining us, Daisy completed an editorial internship with the BBC Sky at Night Magazine and worked at the National Space Centre in Leicester, U.K., where she enjoyed communicating space science to the public. In 2021, Daisy completed a PhD in plant physiology and also holds a Master's in Environmental Science, she is currently based in Nottingham, U.K.

With contributions from
  • rod
    Admin said:
    The 2020 Quadrantid meteor shower will peak overnight on Jan. 3-4, and the moon will be favorable to see the faint display of "shooting stars." Here's our gHp5H8hy3d9cemVZ92D6jie.

    Quadrantid Meteor Shower 2020: When, Where & How to See It : Read more

    "Here's our gHp5H8hy3d9cemVZ92D6jie", this does not mean anything to me as an observer but the 3 minute video and sky chart in the report did :) Sky charts with meteor radiant and times observable are also found in software products like Starry Night and Stellarium too when set for a specific location on Earth.