Astronomy Ireland seek public help to monitor Shooting Stars this Sunday

Astronomy Ireland seek public help to monitor Shooting Stars this Sunday

Up to 20 times more shooting stars than normal will be seen this weekend as the Geminid Meteor Shower reaches its peak activity.

 Astronomy Ireland are asking members of the public to count how many they see every 15 minutes and send in their reports to its website for publication in Astronomy Ireland magazine.

 "It is only because of members of the public monitoring this shower that we know that the Geminids in December is the best of the year" said David Moore, founder of Astronomy Ireland, the world's most popular astronomy club.

 "In past decades the Perseid Meteor Shower in August was the best but this has declined somewhat in recent years to leave the Geminids reigning supreme. This is also good news for the public because that August shower cannot be well seen until 11pm but the Geminids begins as soon as it gets dark, around 5pm and runs until dawn." he said.



 Geminid Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky. Their paths all point back to the constellation Geminid, hence the name, but that is not the best place to look. 

 The Moon is out of the way so those in rural areas with very dark skies will get an even better view. But city dwellers will see plenty as the Geminids are known for producing bright fireballs.

 You should fill your field of vision with sky. This may involve craning your neck back so you can barely see the horizon at the bottom of your field of vision. A deck chair or sun lounger is ideal for this. Even a blanket on the ground.

 Wrap up well. Several layers that trap warm air from your body are better than one thick layer. Shoes with thick soles also help.

Dressed properly, it is possible to stay outdoors for several hours, even in December.
A hat is essential as most body heat is lost from the head. Scarves and gloves complete the essential stargazers winter outfit.


 As well as enjoying the free 'celestial fireworks' display the entire family can contribute to the sum total of human scientific knowledge by simply counting how many meteors are seen. 

 Start on the hour, or any 15 minute interval, and simple record how many you see every 15 minutes.
Then go to Astronomy Ireland's website and it will tell you how to simply report your results.
A report of all Irish Geminid counts will appear in the next issue of Astronomy Ireland, a popular-level magazine aimed at families and stargazers across the 32 counties.

If viewing with a group of people each person should keep their own count and not include meteors seen by others. This means we can directly compare counts from individuals all over the world. That's science!



 The Geminids are caused by tiny pieces of space debris, bits of dust that fell off a small extinct comet or asteroid called Phaethon that goes around the Sun every one and a half years. 

 "It has probably been around the Sun thousands of times and has spat out dust particles that have now spread all around its orbit." said Mr. Moore.


 The Geminid meteor shower lasts for about 2 weeks (Dec.7th-17th).

 The shower peaks just after midnight on Sunday night but rates will be high for several nights before and after Sunday night (some can be seen from Dec.7th-17th.) 
Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight as with all showers, but do start watching from 6pm. All night long if you can.
And don't forget to send reports and your 15-minute counts to  Astronomy Ireland magazine.