Northern Ireland news

Man-made shooting star set to stun during meteor display

Photo issued by the European Space Agency of a Perseid seen in August 2010

A BREAK in the clouds which have been obscuring Northern Ireland's summer will be needed for a glimpse of what astronomers promise is to be a spectacular display of shooting stars this week.

But, should they part, celestial fireworks of Perseid meteors will be outshone by a man-made shooting star.

When the meteors reach their peak on a moonless Wednesday night they will be accompanied by the International Space Station outshining the brightest stars.

It will make a "spectacular pass" across the evening sky just after 10.25pm.

The Irish Astronomical Association (IAA) is holding a public observing evening for the maximum of the shower at Delamont Country Park in Killyleagh, Co Down on Wednesday from about 10pm.

Shooting stars are produced by small particles in space, entering the atmosphere at high speed, and streaking across the sky.

The Perseids are tiny particles from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near the Earth in 1992

The space station will appear as a dazzling point of light moving rapidly across the sky.

Exceptionally dark skies will provide the best possible conditions for viewing the shooting stars this week due to an invisible "new moon".

During this period as many as 100 meteors or more may be seen every hour.

Terry Moseley of IAA said the Perseids "can be seen from anywhere that the sky is clear and dark".

"You'll need to be well away from cities and towns to escape the light pollution, and you should look for a site with a good clear view all round, if possible.

"You don't even need binoculars, just your own eyes. If you are really keen, wait until the small hours (say 1-3am) to see the most meteors.

"The Perseids are the highlight of the meteor observing year, with dependably high rates, and a good percentage of really bright meteors, or fireballs.

"This event is obviously weather dependent, so check the IAA website (www.irishastro.org) for an update if the forecast is not too good.

"Bring a folding chair, or a waterproof rug, or best of all, a recliner, for comfortable viewing. And wrap up well, from head to foot.@

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