Quadrantid meteor shower is almost here

The first big meteor shower of 2012 is set to kick off early Wednesday morning from about 3-5 a.m.

The Quadrantids – named after a now-extinct constellation known as Quadrans Muralis – is expected to produce up 60-200 streaks per hour.

“If your skies are very clear and dark, allowing you to see faint meteors, your rates could top 100 per hour,” Robert Lunsford, of the American Meteor Society, told Space.com.

“Observers located in the western portions of North American will have lower rates but will also have the opportunity to see Quadrantid ‘earthgrazers.'”

According to Discovery, the Quadrantid radiant lies in the constellation of Boötes, below the handle of The Plough, which is most commonly referred to as the Big Dipper.

Wednesday’s shower is believed to have originated from the husk of a long-extinct comet known as C/1490 Y1, with the first Quadrantids shower observed in 1825.

“Studies suggest that this body could very well be a piece of a comet which broke apart several centuries ago, and that the meteors you will see before dawn on Jan. 4 are the small debris from this fragmentation,” NASA explained in a recent statement.

“After hundreds of years orbiting the sun, they will enter our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth’s surface – a fiery end to a long journey!”