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05th May 2021

Meteor shower to be visible tonight as Halley’s Comet passes over Ireland

Clara Kelly

Looks like you might be able to make a wish on a shooting star tonight.

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower will be visible from Wednesday night until Thursday morning as Hayley’s Comet is set to pass over Ireland.

Onlookers can also make a wish on a shooting star as the shower is expected to see roughly 20 meteors an hour in a breathtaking celestial display.

The event is associated with Halley’s Comet, a comet that orbits the sun roughly once every 76 years. However, the meteor showers associated with the comet occur every year.

As Earth moves through the cloud of dust left by Halley’s comet, the particles fall into our atmosphere and burn up, creating spectacular streaks of light in the sky, known as meteors or shooting stars.

However, the meteors are no cause for concern as the meteoroids from Halley’s Comet strike the Earth’s atmosphere at around 150,000mph, burning up in the process.

David Moore, Editor of Astronomy Ireland, told JOE that the meteors will be best seen in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning they will be most clear in Ireland between 3 am to 4 am.

Moore added that everyone will have a chance to spot the meteors, however, visibility will be clearer in rural areas.

“It’s best seen in the Southern Hemisphere, so in Ireland, we have a small window, from about 3 am to 4 am, when we expect to see perhaps five times more shooting stars than normal,” he said.

“The thing about meteor showers is there are faint ones and there are bright ones. If you live in a town or city where there is street lighting, that is going to brighten up the sky and you won’t see the faint ones. You’ll still see the bright ones, which are the most spectacular ones.

“People in the countryside will count more, if you really want to see them at their best but you live in a town with bright conditions, try to drive away from it, even just a few miles will help. If you can see the Milky Way from where you’re standing, then you have a great sky.”

Moore added that people won’t need any equipment except “a clear sky and a naked eye” to view the stars, and encouraged people to get in touch with Astronomy Ireland via email with their own counts.

He urged people to “fill as much of your vision with sky” as possible and count how many shooting stars they can see over each fifteen-minute period. Moore also suggested having each person look in a different direction if counting as a group, and keeping individual counts.

“It’s by members of the public counting these shooting stars every year, that we know that this shower is actually quite strong,” he continued.