Michael T. Martin
Shooting Stars

'A lightning sort of brightness': This stunning shot of the Perseids was captured over Wexford

The Perseids meteor shower which peaked on Wednesday and Thursday night will continue tonight but with a reduced number of meteors likely to be visible.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 13th 2021, 4:26 PM

THE PERSEIDS METEOR shower is widely known for its fireball-like meteors. Amateur photographer Michael Martin was able to capture one on camera in the early hours of Thursday morning.

David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine told The Journal 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”.

In order to take photo, Martin used a wide angle lens on his Nikon camera and set it to capturing 15 second long exposure photographs. The camera was pointed in the southwest direction.

Martin described the fireball: “It was unbelievable. It was it was as bright as day for a split second, it was like a lightning sort of brightness.”

“The whole thing lasted for maybe two seconds. And just like a streak across the sky, because I had the 15 second exposure is picked up the whole thing,” he added.

Clear conditions are vital in order to capture photographs of meteor showers as Martin pointed out, “it was clear for from midnight pretty much until three or four in the morning that night so that was the reason why it was possible”.

Ever since taking up photography three years ago, the Perseids meteor shower has become a regular fixture in Martin’s calendar as he moves towards astrophotography.

Moore also witnessed the fireball, “the whole landscape was lit up by the flash which special meteor equipment recorded at 2.14 am on Thursday morning”.

The Perseids meteor shower which peaked on Wednesday and Thursday night will continue tonight but with a reduced number of meteors likely to be visible.

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

Moore said, “we had hundreds of reports from all over the country in the last two nights, thousands of meteors were seen”.

Clear skies over the past two nights meant there was good visibility – particularly in the south of the country.

“The weather was actually quite good,” said Moore. Adding that the weather conditions meant “there was a phenomenally good result this year”.

Although the Perseids have now passed their peak, they will still be visible tonight with about half as many visible compared to last night. 

Moore said, “there should be half as many Perseids tonight, and one quarter on Saturday night, which is still several times more Perseids than normal meteors so it is well worth people watching for a few more nights”.

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 can produce 20 times more shooting stars than on a regular night. 

The public can send in details and reports of Perseids they have seen so far to Astronomy Ireland.

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