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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Celestial fireworks to light up the night's sky as hundreds of shooting stars streak across Ireland

A Leonid meteor shower
Credit:Twitter/Scott Tully
A Leonid meteor shower Credit:Twitter/Scott Tully

David Kearns

Stargazers in Ireland are set for a stunning celestial firework display as hundreds of shooting stars will streak across the night’s sky this evening.

Providing it is not cloudy, those in dark rural areas should expect to see between one to three shooting stars every 60 seconds.

According Astronomy Ireland, this special Christmas light show is due to the Geminid meteor shower peaking this night.

Up to 20 times more shooting stars than normal are expected to be visible during this period.

Met Éireann is forecasting clear skies in most places this evening, so the chances of spotting a shooting star are “better good” says Astronomy Ireland.

“The shower lasts all night and should be most easily visible when the sky is dark, between the hours of 10.30pm and 4.30am.

“Normally around one meteor is visible every 10 minutes, but during this period, that can rise to one every minute.”

Read More: Astronomy Ireland organises nationwide meteor watch

Astronomy Ireland said since Irish weather was “mostly cloudy at the best of times”, people interested in viewing the meteor shower should keep an eye skyward all week as “there will be excellent displays until at least the weekend”.

The group is asking people to count how many meteors they see every 15 minutes during the next seven days, and to submit their results to the organisation so it can track whether the annual shower is getting stronger or weaker.

The ‘Geminid meteor shower’ takes place every December as the Earth passes through a debris trail from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.

It is called the Geminid shower because the meteors appear to come from the part of the sky associated with the constellation Gemini, although really it is 3200 Phaethon that causes them.

These meteors or 'shooting stars' are the result of small particles, in some cases as small as a grain of sand, entering the Earth’s upper atmosphere at around 200,000 km/hour.

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