Ireland will be lit up by shooting stars tonight and again tomorrow as the Earth passes through dust left behind by Halley’s Comet.
Stargazers can look forward to seeing spectacular shooting stars, as the Eta Aquariid meteor shower i s expected to peak tomorrow night with up to 20 meteors per hour, and will be visible until the early hours of Thursday morning.
This celestial display is associated with Halley’s Comet which orbits the sun once every 76 years.
David Moore from Astronomy Ireland said: “Tuesday night and Wednesday night are the two best nights to watch from Ireland.
“There will be from 10 to 20 an hour and two to three times more shooting stars than normal.
“The best time to view is after midnight – so people need to stay up late.”
Mr Moore has issued some tips, including allowing your eyes at least five minutes to become accustomed to darkness, refrain from looking at phones, allow plenty of time to see the phenomenon, and go to rural locations, if possible, away from light pollution.
The shooting stars will be visible until dawn and Mr Moore encouraged people to email firstname.lastname@example.org to send reports on what they have seen.
Anna Ross, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, said: “As both the Earth and Halley’s Comet have elliptical orbits around the sun, these two intersect twice per year.
“This causes not only the Eta Aquariids but also the Orionids meteor shower in October.”
The Eta Aquariids takes its name from the constellation of Aquarius in the southern hemisphere, where the shooting stars appear to originate from.
Meteoroids from Halley’s Comet strike the Earth’s atmosphere at around 150,000mph, burning up in the process.
While the Eta Aquariids is active from late April to near the end of May, Ms Ross said the best time to see it will be at dawn on May 6 when up to 50 meteors an hour will be visible. She said despite meteors being visible all over the sky, the easiest time to see them will be “in the early hours of the morning”.