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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Detection stations fully operational after meteorite hits Abu Dhabi

Three meteor detection stations have been set up across the UAE, each with 17 cameras to track meteors and orbital debris.
UANC will track meteors such as this one seen in Britain’s skies. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images
UANC will track meteors such as this one seen in Britain’s skies. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

DUBAI // Three meteor detection stations have been set up across the Emirates, the UAE Space Agency said on Sunday.

The UAE Astronomical Camera Network (UACN) is designed to track coordinates of meteors and orbital debris, calculating trajectories in case of local impact, and it monitored one such meteorite that landed on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi in September.

The camera network will also contribute to discovering new meteor showers and following the movements of those already anticipated.

The first meteor detection station, dubbed UACN1, was setup in the Remah area of Al Ain in January. UACN2 was established in the Razeen area, 100km east of Abu Dhabi, and went into operation in August.

The last station was completed in October, after which the network became fully operational. Its location has not been disclosed.

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According to the UAE Space Agency, each station contains 17 astronomical cameras that automatically start recording video and taking imagery upon detection of meteors.

Due to a need for high-precision images to make precise calculations, 16 of the cameras found in each station capture narrow-field images capable of accurately analysing meteors and their trajectories. The other camera is wide-angled and can cover almost all the sky, so it can identify and track meteors entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

On September 30, UACN detected a bright fireball at 8.15pm, which was visible to the naked eye. The meteor is believed to have made impact between Khalifa City and Al Raha Beach after travelling at a speed of 23km per second.

The naturally occurring object measured between 1cm to 3cm in diameter, weighed between 5 to 20 grams and had a density of 2.2 grams per cubic centimetre.

The meteor was spotted via the wide-angled camera at the UACN1 facility and on one of the cameras at UANC2. It was tracked from an altitude of 93.4km above Earth to 44.8km, where the brightest flare was emitted, said the agency.

The UAE network also collaborated with other meteor surveillance networks in Finland, the US and the Radio Meteor Observation in Japan to document activity of an idle meteor shower previously predicted by a Finnish astronomer.

The October Camelopardalids meteor shower peaked on October 5, with monitoring networks in California recording nine meteors and UACN detecting three.

Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director of the UAE Space Agency, said: “UACN provides astronomical research centres with state-of-the-art technology, which plays a central role in encouraging scientific research and innovation in the UAE.

“We hope that the network will make major contributions to the efforts of fostering the country’s leading position in the field of space research and exploration.”

tzriqat@thenational.ae