SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist Joe Rao has penned a terrific in-depth preview of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower, which peaks tonight. The article is loaded with facts, historical tidbits (did you know the shower is named for a defunct constellation?), and advice for catching falling stars in spite of suboptimal conditions:

"Unfortunately, this will not be a good year to look for the 'Quads.' Chalk it up to poor timing. First, the peak of this year's shower is predicted for 10 p.m. EST on Jan. 3. But on Jan. 5, the moon will turn full. That means that all through the overnight hours of Saturday, Jan. 3 into Sunday, Jan 4, the sky will be lit up with brilliant moonlight."

As Rao notes, the moonlight should inhibit viewing of all but the brightest meteors. Still, the shower should still feature some penetrating meteors in the northeastern sky around 6 a.m. local time. The year 2016, which suddenly doesn't seem so far away, should represent a nice bounce back after this year's bright conditions.

"The peak of the shower next year is set for 3 a.m. EST on Jan. 4, which favors eastern North America. And the moon will be at a much more favorable phase: a waning crescent just 29-percent illuminated and much less of a hindrance to meteor viewing. Given clear skies, it could turn out to be one of the best meteor displays of 2016."

For more about how to see the shower tonight, read on at Space.com

Photo credit: Muskoka Stock Photos / Shutterstock