Shooting stars to set skies alight this weekend

Ireland is to be hit with the biggest celestial storm of the year this weekend with more than 100 shooting stars an hour raining down on the country.

Fireballs and colourful shooting stars will be clearly visible to the naked eye this evening as nature’s light show, the Geminid shower, gets under way.

Astronomer David Moore said the event has grown steadily more spectacular over Irish skies in the past decade.

“This shower produces the brightest shooting stars of the year. There are expected to be up to 100 an hour but there can even be up to 200 shooting stars an hour,” he said.

“People who have never seen a shooting star before will be in for a treat this weekend and they could even get to spot an extremely bright fireball. It shouldn’t be missed.”

The shooting stars are from the earth ploughing into a thick cloud of dust left over from the Phaethon asteroid.

“Geminids burn so brightly that they produce fireballs which is a shooting star brighter than any [other] in the sky.

“The great thing about this shower is that they are so bright.”

Mr Moore said some of the fireballs will flare up so brightly that they can drop down to the earth.

He said: “Sometimes large pieces of debris enter the atmosphere and flare up extremely brightly as fireballs and these can often land on the ground.”

Astronomy Ireland is launching a Nationwide Meteor Watch to urge the public to count the stars.

“Ireland is in a very important position when it comes to keeping a record of what is happening in the skies. The moon will be out of the way so it is definitely worth going outside to try to see some bright Geminids,” Mr Moore said.

“There is nobody watching over the Atlantic until you get to America so we fill a very important role as the last people in Europe to see what is happening up there.”

The best chance to see the Germinids will be after midnight.

* www.astronomy.ie


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