Best meteor shower of the year takes place over Ireland tonight

The night sky will play host to this year's Perseid meteor shower later today.

The meteors earn their name through their proximity to the constellation Perseus. They are not stars but tiny flecks of material that were shed by the comet Swift-Tuttle each time it swept past the sun.

Tonight's event is expected to be visible in the sky above Ireland in the evening after dark.

The meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky with the naked eye and you can see perhaps 20 times more meteors than normal.

Those with dark rural skies will see the most as there are more faint meteors than bright ones.

In the past people have reported seeing two to three Perseids per minute.

Astronomy Ireland is asking people to count how many meteors are seen each 15-minute interval and send them in to the society's website which also has more details of the Perseid meteor showers.

"This year is an exceptional year for viewing the Perseids as the Moon will not be in the sky to swamp the fainter meteors with its bright moonlight" said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine.

"Some of the meteors can be spectacularly bright, outshining even the brightest stars in the sky. Some even leave glowing 'trains' behind them for several seconds.

It's all truly an awesome sight happening over Ireland that we want the public to go out and witness.

"You don't need any equipment. No binoculars nor telescopes are needed, just normal eyesight."

VIEWING TIPS

  • Try to find a dark location away from artificial lights. If you have to view from a city find a spot where streetlights do not shine into your eyes - you should be able to see nearby streetlights directly. Back gardens or nearby parks are a good idea.
  • Give your eyes a few minutes to get used to the dark, they will be much more sensitive then. Those in dark rural locations can take up to 15 minutes for their eyes to reach maximum sensitivity, which is when you will get the very best views.
  • There is no preferred direction to look. Try to look up high enough in the sky so that all of your vision is filled with sky. If you have a reclining chair (sun lounger, even a ground mat from a tent) this will be more comfortable for prolonged viewing.
  • Wrap up well. Even though it is August, in the depths of summer, clear nights are the coldest. Some years you can view the whole night in shirt sleeves but some years there can be a ground frost in August.
  • Have a pencil and paper to hand, or a voice recorder and note the time when you start your count. Try to start on the hour, or quarter past, half past or quarter to the hour.
  • If you view as a group or family you should only count the ones that you see. It is individual counts that are the most valuable for analysing is the shower strengthening or declining as the years pass.
  • There will be roughly half as many Perseids the night before and the night after maximum night and these are worth counting too.
  • By Denise O’Donoghue

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