Look: UAE skies light up as rare fireball blazes trail

Residents, including some in the city, spotted the shooting star that was visible for several seconds


Sahim Salim

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Photo: Twitter/AstronomyCenter
Photo: Twitter/AstronomyCenter

Published: Wed 22 Feb 2023, 12:56 PM

Last updated: Thu 23 Feb 2023, 6:35 AM

A rare bright meteor blazed through the UAE skies in the wee hours of Wednesday. The International Astronomy Centre shared images of the fireball as captured by its telescopes at 2.23am.

The night sky over Abu Dhabi lit up for “several seconds”, the centre’s director, Mohammed Shawkat, told Khaleej Times. “Calculations are underway to see if a part of the meteor reached the ground.”

Referred to as ‘shooting stars’, meteors are space rocks that enter the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds and burn up. Sometimes, the space rocks don’t fully burn, and hit the ground. It’s then called a meteorite.

According to Shawkat, any shooting star brighter than Venus is called a ‘fireball’. He said many residents, including some in Abu Dhabi city, spotted the meteor.

Although his team is checking the data to calculate the meteor’s exact speed, Shawkat said it starts at about 17km per second. “Meteors become visible when they reach about 120km above earth. It will be visible till it’s about 50km above the surface."

Though shooting stars are common in the UAE, fireballs are rare. “The one we spotted yesterday was very rare.”

The International Astronomy Centre has a network of cameras that records meteors appearing in the sky. Three stations consisting of 16 cameras each monitor the skies at all times. The fireball spotted on Wednesday was captured by cameras at two stations.

Officials from the centre team up with professionals from other bodies concerned to look for debris.

Parts of a meteor that was spotted in March 2019 landed in a desert. They don’t pose a threat to human beings as they are very small, Shawkat added.


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