The tiny sand-grain size particles will burn up as fiery streaks popularly known as “shooting stars” but correctly known as meteors.
“It’s a free celestial fireworks display that can be seen all over Ireland and we are asking members of the public to count how many they see each quarter of each hours and email them for a nationwide count being conducted by Astronomy Ireland magazine” said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine.
“The great thing is that you need no optical equipment, just the naked eye will do. Simply email how many you see to firstname.lastname@example.org” said Mr Moore.
The best time to see the show is just before dawn. The Eta Aquarid meteors, as they are called, can be seen anywhere in the sky and there could be up to 10 times more meteors tonight than on a normal ‘non-shower’ night. The shower is noted for producing spectacular ‘Earthgrazers’ that travel on long paths across almost the entire sky.
Experienced meteor watchers suggest the following viewing strategy: Dress warmly. Bring a reclining chair, or spread a thick blanket over a flat spot of ground. Lie down and look up somewhat toward the east. Meteors can appear in any part of the sky, although their trails will point back toward Aquarius.
Eta Aquarids are flakes of dust from Halley’s Comet, which last visited Earth in 1986. Although the comet is now far away, beyond the orbit of Uranus, it left behind a stream of dust. Earth passes through the stream twice a year in May and October. In May we have the eta Aquarid meteor shower, in October the Orionids. Both are caused by Halley’s Comet.