(USA TODAY) -- The Quadrantids are a tricky shower because they have an extremely short peak, just eight hours, said Ron Hipschman, a scientist at the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco.
This year they're predicted to peak at 2:30 p.m. ET Friday, meaning they could hit during daylight in most of the United States.
Nothing's entirely predictable in nature, however, so it's worth taking a look.
"If you're in North America, look on the morning of Jan. 3, between midnight and dawn," said Deborah Byrd of EarthSky.org.
By some estimates, the peak may occur a few hours earlier, making them visible before dawn on Jan. 3 to watchers on the West Coast, according to Sky and Telescope magazine.
Where the Quads are visible, the shower's "radiant," the position on the sky from which the meteors seem to come from, will be very low, just above the northeast horizon, Hipschman said.
For those who can see them they'll give a good show.
"During those eight hours, though, you would see at least two meteors a minute, so it is pretty strong while it lasts," Hipschman said.
On the West Coast, the clearest skies early Friday morning will be in southern California, said Tony Zartman with AccuWeather. Central and northern California will be cloudy with some breaks so "there's the potential for some clear sky," he said.
The Pacific Northwest will be "pretty cloudy so they don't have much chance at all," and that holds true for most of Alaska, he said. Hawaii "looks pretty cloudy, there's a cold front moving across the state," he added.
The Quadrantids were first observed in Italy in 1825. They are named after an obsolete constellation, Quadrans Muralis (the Mural Quadrant) identified by a French astronomer in 1795.
"When the International Astronomical Union established "official" constellation boundaries in the 1930s, this constellation did not make the cut," Byrd said.
The meteor shower retains the constellation name, even though it no longer officially exists.
The Quads' peak is really the only time to watch them because the rate of meteors striking the earth's atmosphere quickly diminishes. That's different from most other big showers such as the Geminids and Perseids, which have good rates for a couple of days before and after their respective peaks.
The Quadrantids also are unusual because they come not from a comet, as do most meteor showers, but from an asteroid.
It's thought that the asteroid, named 2003 EH1, is the extinct remains of a comet observed in Asia in the year 1490, said Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Asteroids are small, rocky bodies, while comets are made up of ice and dust around a rocky core.