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If you plan to ring in 2021 with a festive outdoor celebration, you might just get to start the year off by wishing upon a shooting star.
As every year does, 2021 will begin in the midst of the Quadrantids meteor shower, according to NASA. Peak activity for the meteor shower will be the night of January 2 into January 3, but there's still a chance you could start the year off on a lucky note if you catch a meteor streaking across the New Year's sky.
The Quadrantids meteor shower began December 27 and lasts until January 10, according to the American Meteor Society. Its one of the strongest meteor showers of the year, but it's often a disappointment because the weather in January doesn't always cooperate for sky watching. This year, the moon will be 84 percent full during the peak period, which may also put a damper on catching a glimpse of a meteor.
The best time for viewing shooting stars from the Quadrantids meteor shower is at night and into the predawn hours. As with all meteor showers, the Quadrantids are best viewed in a dark night sky, away from city lights and streetlights. It can take about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, NASA advises. And it's January, so make sure to dress warmly or bring blankets or sleeping bags so you don't get too cold.
After the Quadrantids, it will be awhile before our next meteor shower. Next up will be the Lyrid meteor shower, which occurs from April 16 to April 30 with peak activity the night of April 21 into April 22, the American Meteor Society reports.
Also in January, Mercury will be at its greatest eastern elongation, which is the best tiJanme to view the planet in the evening sky. Mercury, the innermost planet in the solar system, will reach its great eastern elongation on January 23, according to EarthSky. To view Mercury, look in the western sky about 45 minutes to 60 minutes after sunset, which will be at 4:54 p.m. January 23.
If the clouds don't cooperate the evening of January 23, Mercury will be visible in the evening sky from about January 21 to January 27, EarthSky reports. The key to catching a glimpse of Mercury is to look for it shortly after sunset, because Mercury sets soon afterward. If you're looking toward the west, it will appear as a starlike light very near where the sun sets on the horizon.
Mercury will reach its greatest western elongation in March. Viewing the planet at this time is similar to when it is at its eastern elongation, except that it is best viewed in the eastern sky just before sunrise.
The full moon for January will occur on January 28. The moment the moon will reach its fullest point will be 1:21 p.m., but it will appear full in the night sky that night.
January's full moon is called the wolf moon, because the month is typically cold and snowy and wolves would hungrily howl in the night outside of Native American villages and settlements, Farmers' Almanac reports. Other nicknames for the January full moon are moon after Yule and the old moon.
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