Not all star-gazing in Iowa involves spotting a presidential candidate. A meteor shower will reach its peak early Friday morning and many astronomers will be looking skyward. Doug Rudd, of the Des Moines Astronomical Society, says if it’s not cloudy, the Quadrantid meteor shower should be visible.
He says the best time to watch is after midnight, with the peak of falling meteors around 12:40, in the north-northeast sky about a quarter of the way up. It’s expected to be an active shower with an average of two "shooting stars" or meteors per minute and at times many more. Rudd explains what is causing the "shower" of meteors.
He says the earth is plowing into a debris field left by a comet that passed through this area of space about 500 years ago. Don’t worry about getting conked on the head. Rudd says these are tiny particles of sand or dust that will burn up before they reach the ground — but they’ll make a spectacle on the way down.
He says the grains of sand or dust fall, they excite the molecules in the atmosphere and produce bright colors — sodium burns yellow, nickel produces a bright green glow and magnesium produces a blue-white color. Rudd says this may end up being the best meteor shower of 2008.