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Shooting Stars

Clear spells to give Irish stargazers a glimpse of Perseids as annual meteor shower peaks

There will be 20 times more shooting stars than on a normal night.

THE PERSEIDS METEOR shower, which has been visible over Ireland in recent days, is set to peak tonight and on Thursday night – and clear skies in many areas this evening will likely give stargazers a good glimpse of the phenomenon. 

Considered to be one of the clearest and most reliable meteor showers, the Perseids happen every year. They’re visible to the human eye and those watching out do not necessarily need telescopes, binoculars or any other special equipment. 

The shooting stars will be visible all night from dusk until dawn, according to David Moore of Astronomy Ireland.

Meteors are caused when small particles about the same size as a grain of sand burn up upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere. 

The particles originate from comets which are essentially giant balls of dust and ice. 

The comet that causes the Perseids is known as Comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun every 133 years. It last had its closest approach to the sun in 1992.

Named after the constellation Perseus, the Perseids will produce 20 times more shooting stars than on a regular night. 

And this year for the first time since 2015 the Perseids will be occurring when there is no moon in the sky. As a result, the sky will be a lot darker allowing for better viewing of the meteors.

Viewing the meteor shower from a dark place with little artificial light such as a rural area is ideal, said Moore. 

However, those living in cities will also be able to view the meteor shower.

Moore adds that “the Perseids are known for a large proportion of fireballs which are extremely bright meteors. These can be seen in the city or in the countryside equally well.”

Astronomy Ireland is again holding its annual Perseid Watch this year. Members of the public are being asked to count how many meteors they see every 15 minutes and send the details to Astronomy Ireland.

Counting the number of meteors visible allows astronomers to determine when the exact peak of the Perseids took place. 

Moore said counting and reporting the meteors “helps us to pin down for next year, and subsequent years, when the peak actually happens”.

Pointing out the scientific value of the Perseid watch Moore said, “members of the public can genuinely contribute to the sum total of human knowledge just by counting the sky”. 

The latest forecast from Met Éireann is for a mainly dry night with clear spells at first, with cloud increasing overnight. 


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