1,000 shooting stars per hour: Will meteor storm tonight be visible in UAE skies?

Our planet is expected to go inside the debris of that comet, a scientist said


Nandini Sircar

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Representational image
Representational image

Published: Mon 30 May 2022, 2:30 PM

Last updated: Tue 31 May 2022, 8:15 AM

People around the world and in the UAE are gearing up for a huge celestial event in the night sky Monday night into Tuesday morning.

This meteor shower named Tau Herculids meteor could light up the sky or could be a complete bust.

The event has the potential to be a “meteor storm” of 1,000 shooting stars per hour. It’s said this happens when the Earth passes through a large amount of space rocks.

Experts explain this takes place as the Earth passes through debris from Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (SW3) which was discovered in 1930.

Hasan Al Hariri, CEO, Dubai Astronomy Group and Director Al Thuraya Astronomy Center, said: “This news came from the Nasa Marshall space center. This happens when the comet is fragmented. Our planet is expected to go inside the debris of that comet…the tail and the leftovers from that comet. So, we are going into the debris area. Scientists are expecting a lot of falling debris on Monday till Tuesday morning. Europeans and Americans will get a better view of this. For us, visually, it may not be that great an event in the UAE. But we’ll definitely be able to view this meteor shower. Scientists are anticipating the number of debris falling on the ground will be intense. That’s why it is called a meteor storm.”

“When Meteor storm happened in 1999….the Leonid shower was beautiful. A very dense cloud containing this material hovered around the Earth’s atmosphere. So, it looked like shooting starts everywhere and the frequency was really high. The number of meteors falling per hour sometimes could go into thousands. This phenomenon is unique and happens rarely. It’s been recorded since ancient times. So, it’s natural that people feel excited. Sometimes, people even feel scared that the sky is falling. This has also been recorded by many people in their paintings,” he added.

Scientists have explained that could also fizzle out completely. One Nasa scientist called it an "all or nothing event."


Sarath Raj, Project Director, Amity Dubai Satellite Ground Station and AmiSat Amity University Dubai says: “after the discovery of the SW3, in 1995, we learnt that the comet is 600 times brighter and easily visible to the naked eye. The breakup of the parent comet in 1995 into 69 known fragments led to the Tau Herculid Meteor Shower. This would need fragments traveling ahead of the comet for the last 27 years. Because the Tau Herculids stream is approaching Earth from behind, the shower will be slower. A clear meteor shower can be seen if the debris from SW3 travels faster than 220 mph (miles per hour) or 321kph (kilometer per hour) and if it travels slower than 220 mph, the debris will not make it to Earth and no meteors will be seen.”

It’s said the comet SW3 orbited the Sun every 5.4 years, and it comes nearest to the Earth every 16 years.

Hariri further explains: “In 2014 we were also told about the Cumulus meteor shower and thought it would be intense. But it wasn’t intense. We were in the desert, and we were expecting to see thousands of meteors. But we could only see four or five. So, it’s not always assured but there is a possibility it may be intense. These are faint things, and we cannot observe them without our telescopes.”

Shedding light on the favourable time for sky viewing, Hariri says: “The best time to observe it from Dubai or Middle East will be after 1:00am till Tuesday morning. This is the time when the Earth will be facing the debris (side) and will be observing the meteor falling from the Eastern direction. The peak will be tonight. But in the UAE, it will be around 4pm. The Sun will be high in the sky that time so it will not be visible very well from here.”

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