20 times more shooting stars than normal are expected tonight as one of the best meteor showers of the year, called the “Perseids”, peaks in activity.
There will be an extra ‘treat’ for Stargazers at 10:23pm when the International Space Station , with 6 astronauts on board, will blaze across the sky. 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.
“We urge everyone to get the whole family out under the night sky and enjoy the free celestial fireworks display and marvel as the ISS!” said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland’s magazine.
WHERE TO SEE METEORS
Perseids can be seen anywhere in the sky. There is no special direction to look. Sun loungers, deck chairs and the like are ideal for lying back and enjoying the celestial fireworks. No binoculars or telescopes are needed, just a clear sky, even a partially clear sky will do.
Perseids streak across the sky in a second or less. The really bright ones can leave a glowing trail behind them called a “train”.
Each Perseid is cause by a sand-grain sized piece of dust from a comet called Swift-Tuttle. We slam into these dust particles at over 200,000 km/hour (130,000mph) and the friction with the Earth’s atmosphere makes them burn up as an intense fiery streak that can be seen for hundreds of kilometres.
HOW MANY TO EXPECT?
On a normal night we see perhaps one meteor every 10 minutes on average, from a dark rural sky. The Perseids can increase this rate to more than one meteor per minute! However, this year, the Moon is still very bright (we had a Supermoon last Sunday remember) and will brighten the sky and drown out the fainter meteors.
This makes no difference to those in the suburbs of towns and cities as the artificial light always brightens the sky there anyway, so this year suburbanites will have the same view as rural dwellers which means even more people can get involved in Astronomy Ireland’s annual national Perseid Watch.
SPACE STATION BONUS
While watching tonight (Tue Aug 12) the International Space Station (ISS) will blaze across the sky at 11:12pm. It takes a few minutes to cross the sky so it looks nothing like a meteor so there will be no confusion. ISS can be seen every night until the middle of next week, August 20th. Follow the ISS here – www.isstracker.com.