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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Perseid meteor shower to light up UAE desert skies this weekend

Stargazers to meet at Mushrif Park in Dubai for workshop and viewing

A photographer prepares to take pictures of the annual Perseid meteor shower in the village of Crissolo, near Cuneo, in the Monviso Alps region of northern Italy, on August 13, 2015. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO
A photographer prepares to take pictures of the annual Perseid meteor shower in the village of Crissolo, near Cuneo, in the Monviso Alps region of northern Italy, on August 13, 2015. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO

Stargazers will head to the desert to watch the Perseid meteor shower light up the skies this weekend.

Those keen to watch the meteors fall to earth can head to Mushrif Park on Friday, where the Dubai Astronomy Group will host an workshop and meteor viewing at Al Thuraya Astronomy Centre from 8pm to 10pm.

It will include a talk on the Perseids by the group’s director, Hasan Al Hariri, and advice on how to photograph the night sky. Visitors will be able to use telescopes for gazing at Saturn, globular clusters and nebula.

“We will place telescopes in the park and have a talk on why and how it’s happening,” said a spokesperson on behalf of the group. “Last year people even saw fireballs on Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road in Dubai.”

On Saturday, astronomers will head to an undisclosed location in the desert for the height of the meteor show on Saturday, August 12. Astronomers will meet up at 8.30pm and stay in the desert until the shower peaks during the early hours of Sunday morning.

Attendance at Friday is mandatory for participant at the Saturday event.

The Perseid meteor shower occurs every August as the earth moves through debris left by the biggest object known to pass near the earth, Comet Swift-Tuttle. It’s believed we could have another near miss with Swift-Tuttle again in the year 3044.

Meteoroids enter the atmosphere at about 60 kilometres per second. As they enter, they heat to 1,650 degrees Celcius, hot enough to burn up before our eyes into what we call shooting stars.

This year’s shower is expect to average 50 to 100 meteors per hour. A three-quarter moon will make it a tricker to catch the full show this year.

Nasa has issued a statement debunking rumours that this year’s shower will be the brightest in the history of mankind. That honour, writes Bill Cooke on the Nasa blog, would probably go to the Leonids shower of 1833, when there were 20 to 30 meters every second.

Cooke quotes a witness from South Carolina recorded in the 1889 first volume of the Handbook of Descriptive and Practical Astronomy:

“Upwards of 100 lay prostrate on the ground…with their hands raised, imploring God to save the world and them. The scene was truly awful; for never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell towards the Earth; east, west, north and south, it was the same.”

Still, writes Cooke, it’s worth heading out.

Saturday’s event is Dh100, with snacks and drinks provided. Registration is required.

Friday’s event is free.

The forecast is for clear skies.