Star-gazers to enjoy dazzling Perseid meteor shower over Ireland

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the highlights of the year for star-gazers
The Perseid meteor shower is one of the highlights of the year for star-gazers

Eager star-gazers are set to enjoy one of the highlights of the year as the Perseid meteor shower peaks in activity.

Occurring annually between July 17 and August 24, the meteors will reach their peak on Wednesday and Thursday night when over 100 meteors an hour will be produced over our skies. 

Professor Mark Bailey, director of Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, called the Perseids the "best and most reliable meteor showers of the year".

Mr Bailey added the Perseids may this year produce an outburst of activity at around 7.35pm this evening.

Although it is unfortunately still daylight at that time in the UK and Ireland, it is just possible that enhanced rates may persist for a few hours around this time and so be observable soon after dark."

Those in the midlands and the north are expected to have the best view of the meteors as cloud cover will limit the ability to see them in many places in the south. 

And those looking up into the vast expanse that is our galactic neighbourhood will be in for an extra treat - the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS, which orbits earth every 90 minutes, will be visible for four minutes from approximately 10.24pm on Wednesday. It'll be visible in the sky until Sunday. 

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: "The thing about shooting stars is they're a wonderful free spectacle we can all enjoy, assuming clear skies.

"It's best to watch them from the countryside but even in town, these meteors are bright enough for a few to be visible.

"The moon is out of the way which makes a lot of difference because the sky will be much darker all night. For every bright shooting star you see there are always fainter ones, and this will make it easier to see the fainter meteors and ring up the numbers.

"The Perseids are usually fairly bright. Also, they tend to leave a trail, or train, behind them. You can see the train hanging there glowing in the sky for a few seconds - sometimes for several minutes - after the meteor has gone."

He urged people to keep a special eye out for the International Space Station.

Astronomy Ireland are asking people to note how many meteors you might see, every 15 minutes if possible.

"This will help us tell if the shower is getting weaker or stronger as the years pass and this year is particularly good for getting high numbers as the Moon will not brighten the sky" said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland's magazine where the counts will be published.

"Perseids can be seen anywhere in the sky. There is no special direction to look. Sun loungers, deck chairs and the like are ideal for lying back and enjoying the celestial fireworks. No binoculars or telescopes are needed, just a clear sky, even a partially clear sky will do."

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