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Meteor shower spraying over 100 meteors per hour to dazzle Irish skies


The starry night sky - simplified. Photo: Astronomy Ireland

A Meteor shower spraying over 100 meteors per hour is set to dazzle Irish skies tonight.

Stargazers won’t need a telescope or binoculars, just a clear dark sky.

A comet called P209 will cruise remarkably close to planet Earth on May 29 - just 8 million kilometres away - to become the ninth closest comet ever observed.

Multiple debris trails shed by the comet as long ago as the 18th century will intersect our planet’s path five days earlier, providing the material for the upcoming meteor shower or storm.

Some experts are hoping that a meteor storm will occur, which could mean over 1000 meteors per hour.

“The truth is we just don't know what to expect as this is the first time we have been in the right position in orbit with this comet to witness it”, an Astronomy Ireland spokesperson said.

From tonight into tomorrow morning, the meteor shower will be visible.

Meteors are known for being so fast that you can miss them if you blink. But this shower is predicted to be much slower, so there will be a better chance of seeing more especially from a dark location. This should be a night to remember.

A meteor shower occurs when planet Earth passes through the debris trail from a comet which is all the dust and dirt that fly off as it whizzes through space.

These particles can be the size of a grain of sand or bigger but because Earth has an atmosphere, they hit into it at incredible speeds and burn up creating a colourful streak across the sky.

Comet P209 LINEAR was discovered in February 2004 by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (Linear) program.

Comet P209 is believed to have even pebble-sized particles in the debris trail. These particles will be bright as they burn up in the air.

The best time to view a meteor shower is usually between 1am and sunrise  - but Astronomy Ireland advising hopeful stargazers to start watching the skies once darkness hits.

The spot in the sky where the meteors appear to come from is called the Camelopardalids - a constellation close to the North star.

The shower peak only lasts a few hours and stargazers are advised to position themselves away from light pollution.

Viewers in North America will have the best view as it will be dark there when Earth hits the debris trail.

However, Ireland is the first country across the Atlantic from America so we should get a great view too.

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