Year's best meteor shower on view this weekend

The best meteor shower of the year will be visible this weekend with up to 20 times more shooting stars than normal on display.

Year's best meteor shower on view this weekend

The best meteor shower of the year will be visible this weekend with up to 20 times more shooting stars than normal on display.

Meteors are tiny bits of dust - about the size of a grain of sand - that hit the atmosphere at speeds around 100,000 kilometres per hour and burn up high in the atmosphere as fiery streaks.

In the case of this weekend's shower - known as the Geminids - the body causing all the dust is a rock comet called Phaethon. We pass near its orbit each year around December 13/14 and hit the swarm of dust that it has left behind it.

The Geminids are known for particularly bright meteors, called fireballs, and these can be extremely impressive

According to Astronomy Ireland, people can usually expect to see one shooting star every 10 minutes in a dark sky - away from streetlights - but this weekend city dwellers should see a shooting star every couple of minutes.

Those under dark rural skies could see more than one every minute.

The shooting star shower will be active all week but it will peak on Saturday night.

David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine said: "This is the best shooting star shower of the year."

He asked that everyone in Ireland count how many shooting stars they see every 15 minutes and send the results in to Astronomy.ie.

"It is only by members of the general public counting the numbers seen that we know that this December shower has become stronger than the August shower, which used to be the best of the year. This is how important these counts by members of the public can be."

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