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Perseid meteor shower: Clear conditions to make for 'truly amazing sight'

Published 12/08/2015

Hundreds of shooting stars will be visible from across Ireland on Wednesday evening as the annual Perseid meteor shower peaks
Hundreds of shooting stars will be visible from across Ireland on Wednesday evening as the annual Perseid meteor shower peaks

The best shooting star show in years is set for Irish skies tonight, astronomers have said.

The annual Perseid meteor shower should be more spectacular than usual because of clear conditions and no moonlight.

Up to 20 times more shooting stars than normal are expected to jet across the heavens after dark, according to David Moore, of Astronomy Ireland.

"There will be an extra treat when the International Space Station, with six astronauts on board, will blaze across the sky," he added.

"It will be very high up, almost overhead, looking like a bright star, only up to 100 times brighter than the brightest real star in the sky, making it a truly amazing sight."

The Perseids are being widely anticipated this year as they coincide with a new moon, creating the ideal dark sky conditions.

Occurring yearly between July 17 and August 24, the meteors reach their peak with over 100 meteors an hour being produced.

It is caused by pieces of dust which have fallen from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which was last seen in 1992 and is not due back across our skies for 130 years.

Each piece of dust is the size of a grain of sand and the burning up 100km above the ground lasts about one second.

Larger particles are rare but give much brighter meteors and leave glowing trails or colourful fireballs streaking across the sky for a few seconds.

Experts advise getting away from street lights or even heading to rural areas to get the best view.

Mr Moore said while the show will peak tonight, it will last for the rest of the week.

"Since the weather in Ireland can be summed up in two words - mostly cloudy - it is very important that Irish people ignore what they hear from other parts of the world about the night of maximum, and remember that there should be excellent displays all this week," he said.

"If you only watch on the night of maximum, there is a chance you will see nothing this year if it is cloudy, whereas if you go out every night this week and weekend, you will almost certainly see some Perseids and beat the weather statistics."

Astronomy Ireland is urging the public to record how many meteors they see every 15 minutes, and send on the counts through its website.

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