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Saturday 10 December 2016

Meteor shower set to light up Irish skies with dazzling display 'three times stronger than normal'

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 09/08/2016 | 10:39

Hundreds of shooting stars will be visible from across Ireland on Thursday evening as the annual Perseid meteor shower peaks
Hundreds of shooting stars will be visible from across Ireland on Thursday evening as the annual Perseid meteor shower peaks

Irish skies are set to sparkle later this week as a spectacular meteor shower is expected to peak this week.

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The annual Perseid meteor shower is the strongest of the year, according to David Moore, chairman of Astronomy Ireland.

“This year is expected to be two to three times stronger than normal, because we’re passing through a particularly dense swarm of dust particles,” Mr Moore told RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

He explained that although they look like stars shooting across a sky, they are actually debris from a comet.

“They're just bits that have fallen off a comet goes around the sun every 120 years. It’s been around so many times that there’s now a huge swarm of particles all throughout its orbit, and we pass closest to that, a particularly dense strand, on Thursday night.

“We hit them at 100,000 miles an hour and they burn up as a fiery streak,” he said.

Stargazers hoping to take in the dazzling view are advised that the meteor shower will be visible from 10pm on Thursday until 4am on Friday morning, but that the spectacle should continue for several nights afterwards.

“Normally you’d expect to see a shooting star every ten minutes in a dark rural sky and less in towns and cities, but we could be seeing two or three if we’re lucky,” Mr Moore said.

He added that although there will be a moon until 12.30am, it won’t make much of a difference to the view, and that conditions are otherwise “perfect” for the shimmering display.

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