The Quadrantid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight—Here's How to See It

iStock.com/mdesigner125
iStock.com/mdesigner125

The first major celestial event of 2019 kicks off the night of Thursday, January 3. The Quadrantid meteor shower appears in the night sky each year in the beginning of January, and it's considered one of the most impressive annual meteor showers. If you're looking to catch the spectacle before it disappears for another year, here's where to look.

According to The Washington Post, the Quadrantids are set to peak this year between 9 and 10 p.m. Eastern time Thursday night. Sky gazers in Eastern Europe and Central Europe will have the best view, potentially seeing as many as 120 meteors burn up in the atmosphere per hour. In the U.S., the meteor shower will appear very low in the sky during its peak, and much of it will be lost beneath the horizon.

But in clear, dark conditions, U.S. viewers can still expect to catch up to 40 meteors in an hour. The shower will appear to originate from the northern part of the sky around 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern time and migrate north-northeast by 10 p.m. At 1 a.m., the shooting stars will have reached their highest point in the northeastern night sky.

Unlike other meteor showers like December's Geminids, the Quadrantids are contained to just a single night rather than stretched out over several days. Peak activity usually lasts four hours, which means there are parts of the world that miss them altogether in some years. The Quadrantids are also distinct in that they come from the debris trailing an asteroid, where most other meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through the tail of a comet.

[h/t The Washington Post]

New British Coin Featuring a Black Hole Honors Stephen Hawking

The Royal Mint
The Royal Mint

It has been one year since Stephen Hawking’s death, but the theoretical physicist’s life and legacy live on in both time and space. In an effort to immortalize the late scientist, Hawking’s words were beamed toward the nearest black hole last June, and now, he has his very own coin in the UK.

As New Scientist reports, The Royal Mint has created a 50-pence coin featuring a drawing representing a black hole, Stephen Hawking’s name, and an equation he co-created with Jacob Bekenstein to describe the entropy of a black hole. Though Hawking wasn't the first scientist to predict the existence of black holes, he devised mathematical theorems (like the one on the coin) that lent credence to their existence in the universe. He was also the first person to discover that black holes weren’t entirely black because they emit radiation, and are therefore capable of evaporating and disappearing.

Edwina Ellis, who designed the collector's coin, said she was inspired by a lecture Hawking gave in Chile in 2008. “Hawking, at his playful best, invites the audience to contemplate peering into a black hole before diving in,” Ellis said in a statement. “I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought.”

A different Stephen Hawking coin
The Royal Mint

The Royal Mint says the Hawking coin is the first in a new series that celebrates British innovation in science. The coins come in gold proof, silver proof, silver proof piedfort, and “brilliant uncirculated,” and they’re being sold on The Royal Mint’s website (although most are currently sold out). In recent years, UK coins have also commemorated Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

[h/t New Scientist]

First Person on Mars Will Likely be a Woman, Says NASA Boss

NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann at an event in August 2018
NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann at an event in August 2018
Bill Ingalls, NASA via Getty Images

In what is sure to be one giant leap for humankind, the head of NASA has announced that the first astronaut to set foot on Mars is “likely to be” female. As CNN reports, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine made the comment while appearing as a guest on a recent episode of Science Friday, a science and technology radio show.

At one point in the conversation, Bridenstine fielded a question from Grab Your Wallet Alliance co-founder Shannon Coulter, who asked in a tweet whether a woman would be involved in the next Moon landing, which could occur in 2028, if NASA gets its wish.

“The answer is absolutely,” Bridenstine answered. “In fact, it’s likely to be a woman—the first next person on the Moon. It’s also true that the first person on Mars is likely to be a woman.”

It is too early to tell which female astronauts might be eligible for the Mars mission, which is tentatively scheduled for the 2030s. However, Bridenstine said the space agency is committed to having a “broad and diverse set of talent.” Currently, 34 percent of active NASA astronauts are women. While the gender gap has not yet been closed, it’s still a significant change from 1978, when six women (including Sally Ride) became the first American female astronauts. In addition, women comprised half of the 2013 astronaut class and five of 12 astronauts in the 2017 class, as well as half of the most recent class of flight directors.

The first all-female spacewalk will take place on March 29, rounding out National Women’s History Month. Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will be assisted by flight directors Mary Lawrence and Kristen Facciol on the ground during the roughly seven-hour spacewalk. These events typically involve making repairs to the International Space Station—a job that has traditionally been undertaken by men.

[h/t CNN]

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