'I saw 103 shooting stars': UAE skies light up with Geminids meteor shower

Driving away from the city lights, hundreds of people trooped to the desert to catch the show

by

Sahim Salim

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Photo Courtesy: Prabhu, education coordinator, Mleiha Archaeological Centre
Photo Courtesy: Prabhu, education coordinator, Mleiha Archaeological Centre

Published: Fri 15 Dec 2023, 2:27 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Dec 2023, 11:26 AM

The night sky lit up with more than 100 shooting stars late Thursday as the Geminids meteor shower peaked. The breathtaking sight of hundreds of space rocks crashing and burning through the earth's atmosphere lasted over three hours and was visible across the UAE.

All stargazers needed to do was get away from city and street lights to get a clear view of the night sky. One such spot was deep in the rocky desert of Sharjah's Mleiha, where it gets so dark that celestial objects twinkle at their brightest and nature's silence drowns out all city sounds.

My family and I were among the hundreds of visitors who got cosy on cushions laid out on carpets over the desert sand at the campsite. Al Faya limestone hill range and the Fossil Rock mountain served as the backdrop to the celestial show.

The Moon was not visible, giving other objects of the cosmos the chance to shine. We spotted the first shooting star the moment we walked in at 8.30pm. "A real shooting star, I saw a real shooting star," shouted my 9-year-old son as his excited voice echoed through the desert as our evening started.

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We settled down to track the Geminids, which is famous for being among the best and most reliable annual meteor showers.

As Khaleej Times reported, at its peak, the meteor shower sees up to 120 bright and colourful shooting stars per hour streak across the night sky.

My family and I expected to see about 50 falling stars throughout the night, but ended up counting exactly 103 in three hours. Each streak of light saw collective gasps from stargazers — the brighter the shooting star, the louder the excited chatter.

Photo Courtesy: Prabhu, education coordinator, Mleiha Archaeological Centre
Photo Courtesy: Prabhu, education coordinator, Mleiha Archaeological Centre
Photo: Sahim Salim
Photo: Sahim Salim

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At one point, we saw three meteors burn up at the same time. It was a sight to behold!

"Did you have fun?" I asked my 7-year-old, who had forgotten about her digital device all evening.

"I saw 103 shooting stars, real shooting stars," she screamed, her voice echoing through the desert as our evening ended.

The stargazing event organised by the the Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project was not the only one hosted on Thursday night.

The Dubai Astronomy Group said its event in Al Qudra Lake saw 500 people attend.

Photo: Dubai Astronomy Group
Photo: Dubai Astronomy Group
Photo: Dubai Astronomy Group
Photo: Dubai Astronomy Group

Hundreds of residents also made their way into the desert on their own to catch the show.

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