Quadrantid meteor shower kicks off 2012

Star gazers will get to start 2012 off with a little-known meteor shower.

NASA reported that the 2012 Quadrantids, named after an extinct constellation, will peak Wednesday morning. The best viewing time is expected to be between 3 and dawn, Eastern time, which will likely affect how many Americans will actually see it.

According to ABC News , it will likely be best viewed in the eastern U.S., but it may be worth a try. It's recommended that you view it far away from cities and have clear skies.

"They're one of the more active meteor showers of the year, but they're not seen by many people," Bill Cooke, director of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, told USA Today . "It's very cold around that time, so people don't want to go outside."

The meteors will come out of the northern part of the sky between a constellation named Bootes and the Big Dipper's handle.

The meteor shower will enter Earth's atmosphere at a speed of about 90,000 mph and burn up about 50 miles above the Earth.

Meteor showers, as explained by Space.com , happen when the Earth travels through debris left over from comets or asteroids. They are also known as "shooting stars."

NASA stated that the Quadrantids originate from the 2003 EH1 asteroid, which studies suggest may have been a piece of a comet that broke apart centuries ago.

The Quadrantids is named after the constellation of Quandrans Muralis, or mural quadrant, created by French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795 and no longer recognized by astronomers. The meteor shower was first seen in 1825.

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