If you’re up early Wednesday morning and the weather is promising, bundle up and go outside. The Quadrantid meteor shower, the first of 2012, should be at its best between 3 a.m. and dawn, Eastern time. If you get lucky, you may get a silently satisfying sky show.
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. (Other showers, such as the Perseids in August, are caused by the more widespread debris from comets, so they may last several nights.) 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.