HERE is the weekly Skywatch column from Stuart Atkinson.
Keep an eye on the night sky if you’re out after dark over the next couple of weeks, because this is a great time of year to be looking out for shooting stars.
People think shooting stars are rare – so rare that if you see one you should make a wish – but in fact they zip across the sky quite frequently.
The problem is most are very faint and fast moving, so with all the light pollution we have these days we tend to only see the very brightest ones.
But at certain times of the year many more shooting stars than usual skip across the sky, as Earth passes through streams of space dust left behind by comets going around the Sun.
Then we see a “meteor shower”, and as we approach the middle and end of November there are two meteor showers active, which will greatly improve your chances of seeing at least one really good shooting star if you’re out after dark on a clear night.
As you read this the Taurid Meteor Shower will just have passed its peak, but will still be shooting bright meteors across the sky late in the evening as it winds down. The Taurids often produces really bright “fireballs” which crawl slowly across the sky, so look out for those.
The Leonids meteor shower reaches its peak on Nov 17/18th. This shower had produced meteor “storms” in the past, when thousands of shooting stars fell every minute for a brief time, but it isn’t expected to do that this year.
In fact, we’ll be lucky if we see ten every hour at its peak. But, the Leonids can produce very bright fireballs sometimes too, so you might be treated to one of those if you go out looking.
Meteor-watching can be done from your garden but the light pollution, trees and buildings around you will reduce the number of shooting stars you see to almost nothing.
The best thing to do is get out into the countryside late in the evening, if the sky is clear, and just wait. Eventually you’ll see a shooting star skip across the sky.
As for making a wish – well, you never know.