Irish skies to get best Perseid meteor shower in years

10 Aug 2016

Those of us in the northern hemisphere could be in for a treat Friday morning (12 August), with predictions that up to 200 Perseid meteors will be shooting across the night sky every hour.

The Perseid meteor shower is one of stargazers’ favourite times of the year as, each August, streams of debris rain down on the Earth from the comet known as Swift-Tuttle, resulting in the huge number of shooting stars in the night sky.

For stargazers this year, the peak time to view the shower is expected to begin on the night of 11 August until it reaches its crescendo in the early morning hours of Friday 12 August.

High density of meteors

But to make it even more special for those of us in the northern hemisphere, astronomers from the International Meteor Organization are predicting this shower could be the best seen in a number of years.

The reason for this is that a number of key factors will work together to make the night sky as clear as possible for those looking up at it.

For instance, the setting of the moon on 11 August will not result in a strong moonlit sky, while Swift-Tuttle’s orbit – which takes 133 years – is timed in such a way this year that Earth is expected to be on the end of a particularly dense cloud of space debris.

Typically, the number of meteors seen per hour during the Perseid meteor shower ranges between 50 and 100 during the average year.

Bombarded by 2,000-year-old space debris

However, according to The Guardian, the expected number this year of 200 per hour will be the first time this number has been seen since 2004.

For those interested in the astronomical origins of this particular dense meteor shower, it was predicted by French astronomer Jeremy Vaubaillonall the way back in the year 1079 that this particular dense cloud would be ejected from Swift-Tuttle.

This was the same year renowned Persian astronomer Omar Khayyam was able to determine that a year was exactly 365.24219858156 days.

As always, Astronomy Ireland is keen for stargazers to monitor, record and send it their shooting star sightings and remind viewers that no equipment is needed to see the meteor shower.

Perseid meteor shower image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic