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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 11 November, 2019
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Hundreds of shooting stars set to light up Irish skies tonight due to Halley's Comet debris

Previous years have seen dozens of shooting stars pass within an hour.

Image: Shutterstock/Brian Spencer

STARGAZERS WILL BE treated to a meteor shower this evening as debris from Halley’s Comet passes by earth, lighting up the late night sky. 

The Orionid meteor is active every October and brings debris from Halley’s Comet into earth’s orbit at a speed of 148,000mph, causing them to burn up in streaking flashes of light – the result is a shower of “shootings stars”. 

The peak time of the month for this debris to reach earth’s orbit usually occurs between the 21 and 25 October, and astronomers believe tonight from 11.30pm onward will be the best time to catch a glimpse. 

“Basically Halley’s Comet goes around the sun roughly once in a human lifetime… it’s been doing that thousands of times so it has dirtied its orbit and there is loads of debris,” David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine said. 

“Then we pass through that orbit this time every year, and really it’s like plowing through a storm of insects while zooming down the motorway.”

Moore said those in darker parts of the country watching the meteor shower could expect to “see about five or six shooting stars every 10 minutes” but added that some of the debris is not evenly spread, and where the material has gathered in a particular area, stargazers could see up to double that amount in the same period. 

“The naked eye is best to watch this type of thing. We ask people to count the number of shooting stars they see ever 15 minutes and send them in. The only reason we know this shower is active is because thousands of people do this every year.”

While Moore said that the shower will likely be visible from all corners of Ireland, the weather can hinder the chances, and Met Éireann has forecast cloud in some parts of the west and north. 

“Dry tonight, with mostly clear skies in the south and east, where it will be cold,” it said, adding “cloudier conditions will prevail in the west and north, however, so less cold here”. 

The Orion constellation rises later in the night and astronomers expect the meteor shower will begin from 11pm and continue until the final hour before dawn breaks.

In December and August, the largest meteor showers visible from Ireland take place but Astronomy Ireland suggested that the Orionid meteor shower tonight comes in close behind them for the next best show. 

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