Quadrantid meteors and 11 other big skywatching events of 2012

What lies ahead sky-wise for 2012? What celestial events might we look forward to seeing? 

Joe Rao, SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist, selected what he considers to be the top 12 "skylights" for this coming year, and list them in chronological order. Not all these events will be visible from any one locality … for the eclipses, for instance, you'll probably have to do some traveling … but many can be observed from the comfort of your backyard.

And you won't have to wait long for the action to begin. On Jan. 4, the Quadrantid meteor shower will peak with an estimated 100 meteors per hour, according to NASA.

Hopefully your local weather will cooperate on most, if not all, of these dates. Clear skies!

By , Space.com

1. Quadrantid meteor shower

This meteor shower reaches its peak in the predawn hours of Jan. 4 for eastern North America. The Quadrantid meteor shower is a very short-lived meteor display, whose peak rates only last several hours. The phase of the moon is a bright waxing gibbous, normally prohibitive for viewing any meteor shower, but the moon will set by 3 a.m., leaving the sky dark for a few hours until the first light of dawn; that's when you'll have the best shot at seeing many of these bluish-hued meteors. 

From the eastern half of North America, a single observer might count on seeing as many as 50-to-100 "Quads" in a single hour. From the western half of the continent the display will be on the wane by the time the moon sets, with hourly rates probably diminishing to around 25 to 50 meteors.

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