If you want to watch a spectacular celestial event for free this weekend then you are in luck as the annual Perseid meteor shower will pass the skies over earth with as many as 40-50 meteors per hour expected to streak by.
And, the good news also is that the meteor shower will be visible to the naked eye from Friday (August 11) to Saturday (August 12).
While you can watch the meteor shower with friends or family anywhere in the UAE, the Dubai Astronomy Group is hosting two special events at two separate locations in the UAE this coming Friday and Saturday respectively to commemorate the rare meteor shower.
On Friday, Hasan Al Hariri, CEO of Dubai Astronomy Group, will explain to the public the significance of the astronomical event at 8pm at Al Thuraya Astronomy Center in Dubai, with viewing the meteor shower proceeding thereafter.
On Saturday, Dubai Astronomy Group invites members of the public to meet up at Showka Dam in Ras Al Khaimah between 9pm-12am to watch the peaked meteor shower display. Attendees are requested to carry snacks, chairs, mats, etc.
Adventure Emarat, a UAE-based community group, is also inviting its members and their guests to join the group in watching the meteor shower from 8pm onwards on Friday at a suitable outdoor location in Dubai. Those desirous of joining the Adventure Emarat group should ideally have an SUV, although sedan car owners can also join in if they are willing to walk to the viewing site located about 500 metres from an asphalted road.
To best watch the Perseid meteor shower in the UAE, go to dark open areas as far away from bright city lights as possible. Be prepared to sit outside for a few hours. It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and the longer you wait outside, the more you’ll see. A rate of 150 meteors per hour, for instance, means two to three meteors per minute, including faint streaks along with bright, fireball-generating ones.
Bear in mind that it will be very hot and humid at night but note also that the best time to view the spectacular Perseid meteor shower will be between 1-4am.
According to Bill Cooke, NASA meteor expert, the Perseids are perhaps the most popular meteor shower of the year. Typical rates are about 80 meteors an hour, but in outburst years (such as in 2016) the rate can be between 150-200 meteors an hour.
The key to seeing a meteor shower is “to take in as much sky as possible”, Cooke said.
Do you know what causes the Perseid metro shower? Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest object known to repeatedly pass by earth; its nucleus is about 26km wide. It last passed nearby earth during its orbit around the sun in 1992, and the next time will be in 2126. But it won’t be forgotten in the meantime, because earth passes through the dust and debris it leaves behind every year, creating the annual Perseid meteor shower.
According to space.com, when you sit back to watch a meteor shower, you’re actually seeing the pieces of comet debris heat up as they enter the atmosphere and burn up in a bright burst of light, streaking a vivid path across the sky as they travel at 59km per second.
When they’re in space, the pieces of debris are called ‘meteoroids’, but when they reach earth’s atmosphere, they’re designated as ‘meteors’. If a piece makes it all the way down to earth without burning up, it graduates to ‘meteorite’. Most of the meteors in the Perseids are much too small for that.