20 times more shooting stars than normal are expected this week as one of the best meteor showers of the year, called the “Perseids”, peaks in activity.
The public is being urged to go out after dark and count how many meteors they see every 15 minutes for a national survey being conducted by Astronomy Ireland.
“This will help us tell if the shower is getting weaker or stronger as the years pass and this year is particularly good for getting high numbers as the Moon will not brighten the sky” said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland’s magazine which is where the counts will be published.
There will be an extra ‘treat’ 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!
WHEN TO WATCH?
Although maximum activity is expected on Wednesday night, with 20 times more meteors than a normal night, the rate will be half this for each day before and after maximum. This means there’ll be 10 times more meteors than normal on Tuesday and Thursday nights. And 5 times more on Monday and Friday nights.
“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. 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!” Mr Moore said.