Meteor spectacle on the Dubai sky this weekend

August 11, 2017

This weekend, make sure you direct your sight upward to the night sky, as a Perseid Meteor Shower may well be visible from the skies of Dubai.

The rare phenomenon, which is expected to begin on Friday and last until Sunday, August 13, generally shows about 80 meteors per hour, but, depending on the clarity of the sky, can sometimes show as many as 150.

The event is due to planet earth crossing the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle, and it occurs every year from July 17 to August 24. During the shower, remains from the comet litters the earth orbit, with the greatest density of rubble occurring only after the first week of August, when fragments of Comet Swift-Tuttle crash into the earth’s atmosphere at 210,000km/hr.

In case that the planet passes through a particularly dense stack of comet rubble, local astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts will be able to see an elevated number of meteors.

In Dubai, the Dubai Astronomy Group will be hosting an event on August 11 at the Al Thuraya astronomy centre in Dubai’s Mishrif Park, followed by another at Showka Dam in Ras Al Khaimah on August 12.

The event in Dubai will begin at 8pm with an introduction talk, as well as tips on “astrophotography”, an astro-film show, observation of planets through a telescope, a planetarium show, and gallery, and will close with how to observe the meteor shower through the naked eye and an app, which will occur around 10:30pm.

The RAK event will begin at 9pm, with meteor watchers being able to watch and photograph the event until 2am. Those interested are being counseled to make it to Showka themselves and bring food and water, as it is a secluded area.

Responding to social media hearsays that the meteor shower will be the “brightest in human history” and that thousands of meteors will be visible, some even during the day, officials from America’s Nasa had to make online statements in order to scatter these stories.

Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center wrote on the official NASA blog, said that they wish it was true, but no such thing is going to happen,

For one thing, the Perseids never reach storm levels (thousands of meteors per hour). At best, they outburst from a normal rate between 80-100 meteors per hour to a few hundred per hour, he added. The best Perseid performance of which NASA is aware occurred back in 1993, when the peak Perseid rate topped 300 meteors per hour. Last year also saw an outburst of just over 200 meteors per hour.

This year, Cooke added, bigger rates, of about 150 meteors an hour, are expected.

On the other hand, the increased number will be cancelled out by the bright Moon, the light of which will wash out the fainter Perseids. A meteor every couple of minutes is good, and certainly worth going outside to look, but it is hardly the “brightest shower in human history”.