120 shooting stars per hour: UAE sky to light up with meteor shower tonight

How to view the cosmic show, which will appear even brighter as the Moon won’t be visible

by

Sahim Salim

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File images of a stargazing event at Mleiha campsite
File images of a stargazing event at Mleiha campsite

Published: Wed 6 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 6:11 PM

More than 100 shooting stars per hour will streak across the night sky over the UAE next week as the Geminids meteor shower peaks. Active from November 19 to December 24, the Geminids are considered one of the most stunning astronomical events of the year. The cosmic show will peak on Thursday, December 14, and appear even brighter as the Moon won’t be visible.

“The Geminids are considered to be one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, with the possibility of sighting around 120 meteors per hour at its peak,” the Dubai Astronomy Group said.

Described as “one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers” by Nasa, stargazers don’t need special equipment or skills to view the Geminids. Just find a viewing spot away from the city and street lights — a desert, for instance — lie flat on your back and look up. According to Nasa, “after about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt, and you will begin to see meteors”. It will be cold in the desert, so wear warm clothes.

The Geminids are bright and fast meteors reaching speeds of up to 127,000kmph. They “tend to be yellow in colour”, Nasa said.

For a guided tour experience, multiple groups in the UAE will organise viewing sessions.

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Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah will host stargazers on December 14 from 6pm to 1am, when the meteor shower is expected to be at its peak. Set up at the Mleiha campsite; participants will see the night sky light up, with the Al Faya mountain range and the fossil rock serving as the backdrop. Prices start from Dh275 for adults.

The Dubai Astronomy Group’s viewing event on December 14 is at Al Qudra desert, where stargazers will not just see the shooting stars but also “learn more about our night sky, observe different planets and objects through our telescopes”. Ticket rates start from Dh160 for adults.

Decoding shooting stars

When rocks from space enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, they appear as streaks of light in the night sky. These shooting stars are calling meteors.

“Unlike most other meteor showers, the Geminids are not associated with a comet but with an asteroid: the 3200 Phaethon,” the Dubai Astronomy Group explained.

According to Nasa, the Geminids first began appearing in the mid-1800s. “However, the first showers were not noteworthy, with only 10 to 20 meteors seen per hour. Since then, the Geminids have grown to become one of the major meteor showers of the year.”

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