NEWS

Spectacular fireworks show will be above our heads in Donegal tonight

20 times more meteors than normal. will be visible over Ireland

Staff Reporter

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Spectacular fireworks show ' will be above our heads in Donegal tonight

The best meteor ('shooting star') shower of the year peaks all night tonight, Sunday night August 12th. and rural areas will be the best place to see them.

The good news is you don't need any fancy equipment, binoculars, telescopes to see them.

Called the Perseids, the meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky with the naked eye and you can see perhaps 20 times more meteors than normal.

Those in dark rural skies will see the most as there are more faint meteors than bright ones.

In the past people have reported seeing two to three Perseids per minute 

Astronomy Ireland is urging everyone in Ireland to go out and watch this free natural fireworks display, a 'Celestial Firework Display' that will be visible all over Ireland.

If you want to contribute to the monitoring of this shower Astronomy Ireland is asking people to count how many meteors are seen each 15-minute interval and send them in to the society's website www.astronomy.ie which also has more details of the Perseid meteor showers.

"This year is an exceptional year for viewing the Perseids as the Moon will not be in the sky to swamp the fainter meteors with its bright moonlight" said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine.

"Some of the meteors can be spectacularly bright, outshining even the brightest stars in the sky. Some even leave glowing 'trains' behind them for several seconds. It's all truly an awesome sight happening over Ireland that we want the public to go out and witness." he said

"You don't need any equipment. No binoculars nor telescopes are needed, just normal eyesight." said Mr Moore.

WHAT ARE METEORS?

Of course, the Perseids are not stars dropping from their fixed positions in the sky. Rather, they are tiny flecks of material that were shed by Comet Swift-Tuttle each time it swept past the Sun.

When Earth gets to the part of its orbit around the Sun that is nearest to the comet's orbit we plough through the thickest part of this 'comet dust' and they burn up in our atmosphere at 130,000 miles per hour causing a streak of light for a fraction of a second, what we call a meteor.

The meteors typically burn up at altitudes of 50 to 60 miles so there is no threat to people on the ground, and no threat to high flying aircraft which are typically less than 10 miles above the ground.

VIEWING TIPS

Try to find a dark location away from artificial lights. If you have to view from a city find a spot where streetlights do not shine into your eyes - you should be able to see nearby streetlights directly. Back gardens or nearby parks are a good idea.

Give your eyes a few minutes to get used to the dark, they will be much more sensitive then. Those in dark rural locations can take up to 15 minutes for their eyes to reach maximum sensitivity, which is when you will get the very best views.

There is no preferred direction to look. Try to look up high enough in the sky so that all of your vision is filled with sky. If you have a reclining chair (sun lounger, even a ground mat from a tent) this will be more comfortable for prolonged viewing.

Wrap up well. Even though it is August, in the depths of summer, clear nights are the coldest. Some years you can view the whole night in shirt sleeves but some years there can be a ground frost in August.

Have a pencil and paper to hand, or a voice recorder and note the time when you start your count. Try to start on the hour, or quarter past, half past or quarter to the hour.

If you view as a group or family you should only count the ones that you see. It is individual counts that are the most valuable for analysing is the shower strengthening or declining as the years pass.

www.astronomy.ie is the website to submit your counts, that night or early the next day while details are fresh in your mind.

Above all, enjoy the natural spectacle.

There will be roughly half as many Perseids tomorrow night and these are worth counting too.