Shooting star shower to light up Irish skies

IRELAND is set for a spectacular shooting star shower this week with more than 60 meteors an hour forecast to be whizzing over the night skies.

Gloomy skies and rain showers have been a common sight over the past month but astronomers are predicting blazing skies for the next two weeks.

This shower known as the Perseids will peak tomorrow night with hundreds of shooting stars streaking over Ireland.

The chairman of Astronomy Ireland, David Moore, said there could be at least one shooting star a minute on Thursday night.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if people see several a minute. Already this week there has been five times more than usual.

“It will peak on Thursday and the forecast looks very clear on Wednesday and Thursday so it should be quite spectacular.

“The shower of meteoroids will continue for the rest of this week and into next week. Normally there is around one shooting star every hour.

“People can wish on them but I’m not too sure whether they will come true or not,” he said.

He said there is little or no danger of the pea-sized fireballs hitting Ireland.

He said: “These are bits of comets and we’re pretty sure they are made of sand grains and smoke grains and bits of dust.

“We can see them light up the sky so brightly because they are travelling at up to 130,000 miles an hour when they hit the earth’s atmosphere.

“They start burning up 100 miles above the ground. Nothing would get down below about 20 miles, even high-flying aircraft are safe. They fly at about six or seven miles above the Earth.”

He said Ireland is one of the best places on the planet to see the fireworks in the sky.

He said: “The shower will be seen across the northern hemisphere. We have the lowest density population in Europe so it’s easy to get to a rural population to see the stars.

“Irish people are very interested in astronomy. Astronomy Ireland has the biggest membership per population than any other astronomy club on the planet.”

The shooting stars, correctly known as meteors, are caused by the Earth crashing into tiny pieces of dust that have fallen off a comet long ago.

The Earth collides with these pieces of dust at 100,000mph and when they hit the upper atmosphere at these speeds the friction causes them to instantly burn up.

The result is a fiery streak popularly known as a shooting star.

Mr Moore said the shooting stars will be easily visible because of the absence of the moon.

He said: “The lack of moon this weekend will make these meteors easy to see, and astronomers are predicting over 60 meteors an hour – a celestial fireworks display that must not be missed.”

And he is urging members of the Irish public to count the shooting stars in the sky tomorrow night.

“We are very interested in recording how many shooting stars are over Irish skies.

“As soon as it is dark people will start seeing them. We want people to count how many they see in 15 minutes and they can report it on our website astronomy.ie.”

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