Weather may disrupt tonight's meteor shower

Friday 23 May 2014 17.33
It's estimated that between a couple of hundred and over a thousand meteors could be visible each hour
It's estimated that between a couple of hundred and over a thousand meteors could be visible each hour

Weather conditions tonight are looking less than ideal for what astronomers say could be a spectacular meteor shower.

It is estimated that between several hundred and over 1,000 meteors could be visible each hour.

The rare spectacle will happen when the Earth passes through the debris streaming from a comet called  P209 LINEAR, which was discovered in 2004 by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research program (Linear). 

Every five years the comet orbits the sun and in 2012 its orbit and trail was affected by a relatively close pass to Jupiter.

On 29 May, the comet will pass within eight million kilometres of earth.

But tonight, Earth's path will intersect with multiple debris trails left behind by the hurtling mass of ice and rock.

During that intersection, the particles left behind by the comet, which can be as small as a grain of sand, hit the earth's atmosphere and burn up, creating a colourful streak across the sky.

The size and quantity of the objects will dictate just how spectacular the show will be.

Met Éireann has warned that weather conditions in most areas, for most of the night, will not be conducive to meteor watching.

However, there may be some breaks in the cloud to facilitate a clear view.

Experts say the best time to view a meteor shower is between 1am and sunrise, but if the skies are clear it should be visible once the skies darken.