Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 29 September, 2020
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Is it a bird? Is it a snowstorm? No - it's a meteor shower

Keep an eye on the skies for the next two nights: with clear skies forecast, there’s a chance you’ll spot a shooting star.

Image: NASA

ASTRONOMY BUFFS have told the public to keep an eye on the skies for the next two nights, as Ireland prepares for what could be one of most dazzling astronomical shows of recent memory.

Earth is about to enter a particular patch of the universe which is usually populated by the Geminid meteor shower, and during peak concentration, observers might be able to spot between 80 and 100 meteors every hour.

The Guardian reports that compared to usual meters – which originate as the debris from a passing comet, and are generally a bright white – the Geminids are a blue-yellow colour, and also travel unusually slowly.

For that reason, the shower usually tends to last for about two days, and the meteors are easy to spot with the naked eye. It is thought that the Gemenids are the result of debris left behind by an extinct asteroid.

Earth usually passes by the Geminids on December 13 and 14, but with more nights of clear skies expected for the coming days ahead of likely further snowfall next weekend, Irish amateur astronomers have a reasonable chance of catching a decent show in the heavens above.

While the shower is usually best observed at a New Moon (bright moonlight can often drown out any light from the weaker passing debris) this year the shower arrives a full week before a full moon, further raising the chances of astronomers being able to spot the shower with the naked eye.

The shower will appear in the sky to the east, and should remain in the skies for the next two or three nights with peak viewing hours between 2am and 3am. If you’re into that kind of thing, Astronomy Ireland would like your help to compile a survey of the frequency of the overhead meteors.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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