The biggest meteor shower of the year peaks tonight

The biggest meteor shower of the year will be visible over Irish skies tonight.

The Geminids occur around December 13 each year as a stream of dust particles are left by a ’rock comet’ called Phaethon as it crosses the Earth’s orbit.

You will be able to see Geminids anywhere in sky from dusk until dawn but the rates will be higher from midnight.

After 4am, the moon will brighten the sky for rural observers while those in urban areas will have the best view if they watch from an area without streetlights.

The shower is known for producing extremely bright meteors called fireballs which will be clearly visible even in cities.

This is an especially good year to view the Geminids as the Phaethon will come within 10 million km of Earth on December 16 which is the closest it will get to Earth until 2093.

The shower is called Geminids because the path of the meteor always points back to the constellation of Gemini.

"Up to 50 times more shooting stars than a normal night are expected in what should be a wonderful natural celestial fireworks display" said David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine.

"We are asking members of the public to count how many they see every 15 minutes and send in their counts via our website as it is the general public who keep an annual eye on meteor showers and allow us to forecast when the best ones occur."

According to David, the best way to view tonight’s shower is with the human eye so there is no need to use binoculars or a telescope.

Tonight marks the peak of the Geminids but the rates will be at least half as good tomorrow night as well.


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