Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Meteor shower to provide dazzling light show over Irish skies tonight

The best time to view the meteor activity will be between midnight and dawn
The best time to view the meteor activity will be between midnight and dawn

Ireland is set to witness a spectacular meteor shower tonight.

The once-in-a-lifetime light show is set to happen after midnight and into Saturday morning,  with a good chance the gentle shooting stars could become a torrential meteor storm all over the island.

At its peak, there will be up to 100 meteors an hour, travelling around 12 miles per second.

But if a meteor storm were to occur it could mean over 1,000 meteors per hour.

Stargazers won’t need a telescope or binoculars to see the cosmic display - just a clear, dark sky according to Astronomy Ireland.

"The showers will be visible all over Ireland, with those away from streetlights having the best view," a spokesperson said.

Those with a clear, cloudless sky will see the most, but Astronomy Ireland assures sky watchers that it is still possible to see something even with bad weather.

"There is dreadful weather sometimes, like storms, and people still see something," he said.

Meteors are known for being so fast that you can miss them if you blink, but tonight's are predicted to be much slower, and there will be a good chance of seeing something, especially from a dark location.

The best time to view the meteor activity will be between midnight and dawn, but hopeful stargazers are advised to start watching the skies once darkness hits.

"The likelihood is that you will see most around dawn. The technical prediction is that it will peek after sunrise tomorrow, but it could happen earlier, possibly around midnight."

"It's not worth taking the risk just to watch at the predicted time. We would urge people to watch all night if they want to see something," they said.

A meteor shower occurs when planet Earth passes through the debris trail from a comet, which is all the dust and dirt that fly off as it whizzes through space.

A comet called P209 will cruise "just" eight million kilometres away from planet Earth on May 29, becoming the ninth closest comet ever observed.

Tonight, multiple debris trails shed by the comet as long ago as the 18th century will intersect our planet's path, providing the material for the shower or storm.

These particles can be the size of a grain of sand or bigger but because Earth has an atmosphere, they hit into it at incredible speeds and burn up creating a colourful streak across the sky.

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