‘Celestial firework’ display to light up Irish skies this weekend

‘Best meteor show of the year’ to peak with brightest shooting stars on Saturday

The “best meteor show of the year” will peak on Saturday, December 13th, according to Astronomy Ireland,  when 20 times more shooting stars than normal will illuminate the skies over Ireland. File Photograph: Kyodo/Reuters

The “best meteor show of the year” will peak on Saturday, December 13th, according to Astronomy Ireland, when 20 times more shooting stars than normal will illuminate the skies over Ireland. File Photograph: Kyodo/Reuters

 

A “celestial firework” display will light up Irish skies this weekend with thousands of shooting stars expected to fly over the northern hemisphere.

The “best meteor show of the year” will peak on Saturday, according to Astronomy Ireland, when 20 times more shooting stars than normal will illuminate the skies.

“Even in a dark sky away from streetlights you only expect to see one shooting star every 10 minutes,” said David Moore, chairman of Astronomy Ireland, adding that people in cities see very few shooting stars.

“But this weekend even city dwellers could see a shooting star every couple of minutes and those in dark rural skies could see more than one very minute.”

Mr Moore has called on star gazers around Ireland to count the number of stars they see every 15 minutes and send the results to the Astronomy Ireland website. No equipment is needed to watch these “celestial fireworks” as the display will dwarf any human firework presentation, he added.

“It is only by members of the general public counting the numbers seen that we know this December shower called ‘The Geminids’ has become stronger than the August shower ‘The Perseids’ which used to be the best of the year.”

Geminids shower

The Geminids shower is known for its impressive fireballs shooting through the sky, he added.

Shooting stars or meteors are made up of tiny bits of dust about the size of a grain of sand. These dust balls hit the atmosphere at speeds of 100,000 km per hour causing them to burn up in the atmosphere as fiery streaks.

Every December 13th/14th Earth passes near the orbit of a rock comet called Phaethon and hits the swarm of dust the comet leaves behind, creating bright lights in our night skies.

“Don’t just watch on Saturday night,” said Mr Moore. “Check at least the night before and after when rates could be half as good, which is still 10 times better than normal. And view several nights before and after and you’re sure to see more than normal.”

Astronomy Ireland says Irish star gazers must take a couple of minutes to let their eyes adjust to the dark before they can expect to see the shooting star display over the weekend.