Dazzling meteor show to grace UAE night sky this weekend

Residents can view the Perseid Meteor Shower on Thursday night and early Friday morning



Dubai: This weekend in the UAE residents can enjoy a spectacular show of streaking lights in the night sky as the annual Perseid Meteor Shower will peak on Thursday and Friday.

The celestial show is expected to produce the greatest number of meteors on Thursday night and early Friday morning. In a dark, moonless sky, this shower often produces 50 to 100 meteors per hour. In the Northern Hemisphere, the annual August meteor shower ranks among the favourite meteor showers of the year.

What is the Perseid Meteor Shower?

Made of tiny space debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus. This is because the direction and radiant point, from which the shower seems to come in the sky, lies in the same direction as Perseus.

The Perseids arise when Earth passes through the debris of Swift-Tuttle (Comet 109P), discovered in 1862. The comet’s last brush with the inner solar system occurred in 1992, leaving a dusty trail of debris that our planet passes through each summer. As this debris hit Earth’s atmosphere, it burns up and create visible streaks in the sky.

How to catch the show

Dubai Astronomy Group CEO Hasan Al Hariri said people don’t need any special equipment or skills to view a meteor shower. All that is needed is a clear sky and a secluded viewing spot away from the city lights. It may take the eyes five to 10 minutes to get used to the dark.

Al Hariri said for this year’s Perseid shower, the moon will set around 9:45pm and so the night will be in an ideal condition for the show, which will probably be the best meteor shower of 2021. The Perseids are rich in “fireballs”, so the show should be even more dazzling.

‘Meteor party’

Dubai Astronomy Group is organising a ‘Perseid Meteor Shower Party’ on Thursday night, till the early morning hours, at the top of the UAE’s highest peak – the Jebel Jais mountain in Ras Al Khaimah. The event will also provide an opportunity to look through telescopes at other celestial objects in the night sky. The party will feature a presentation and astrophotography and mobile photography training sessions as well.


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Catch The Perseid Meteor Shower Peak This Week In Oceanside

Oceanside viewing conditions looking up for Aug 11-12 peak of the Perseid meteor shower, regarded as the most spectacular cosmic light show.

In this 30-second exposure, a shooting star from the Perseid meteor shower peaks across the sky. The Perseids, always a summer favorite in Oceanside, intersect with the Delta Aquariids. (Bill Ingalls/NASA viaGetty Images)

OCEANSIDE, CA — Look up in the sky, Oceanside! It’s the Perseid meteor shower, often regarded as the best meteor shower of the year and 2021 should be a great year to catch them.

The local forecast in Oceanside from the National Weather Service is for clear skies on Wednesday, the August 11 peak date for the Perseid meteor shower. With clear skies, you could see what some consider the most spectacular cosmic light show.

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That bright moon will wane in the first week of August. The Perseid meteor shower, which runs July 17-Aug. 24, will be well underway by that point, and viewing conditions should be ideal for the Aug. 11-12 peak.

To best see the Perseids, go to the darkest possible location and lean back to observe as much sky as possible directly above you.

The best time to look for meteors is in the pre-dawn hours. While the meteors will peak between August 11-13, they typically start streaking through the sky on July 17 and will be visible from this start date through the peak and typically through 10 days or so after the peak, according to Earthsky.org.

While the peak viewing days are typically your best shot to see the sky speckled with bright meteors, even outside of the Perseids peak timeframe, you should be able to spot a few meteors between midnight and dawn any morning the week before or after this date, according to NASA. To see the meteors, look up and to the north. Those in southern latitudes can look toward the northeast to see more meteors.

Skywatchers looking out for the Perseids might also see some stray meteors from the Delta Aquariid meteor shower.

The Delta Aquariids reliably produce meteors for a couple of days on either side of the peak date and will continue to fire through about Aug. 23, intersecting with the Perseids, often regarded as the best meteor shower of the year — though the Geminid meteor shower in December is special in its own right.

The Perseid meteor shower will peak on the evening of Aug. 12, just four days after the new moon on Aug. 8, so dark skies should be quite favorable for the annual display, which is one of the most dependable displays of “shooting stars.” That’s in stark contrast to next August, when the meteors will coincide with a full moon.

Although rates of Perseids will be highest from the early morning hours of Aug. 12 until Aug. 14, all told, the meteor shower will last about two weeks, from July 25 to Aug. 18. This year, you can expect to see up to 60 meteors per hour at the shower’s peak, according to Earthsky.org.

More: Perseid meteor shower 2021: When, where & how to see it

NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com that 2021 should be a stellar year for the Perseids, which are known for bright, persistent trains. If skies are clear, skywatchers will be able to see about 100 shooting stars an hour, Cooke said, though he explained that in more typical conditions, people should be able to see one meteor every minute.

“The Perseids are rich in fireballs, so they’ll be bright,” Cooke said.

Cooke, who leads the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said meteor shower watching requires an investment in time and preparation. Some tips:

  • Get as far away from city lights as possible.
  • Give your eyes about 30-45 minutes to adapt to the darkness.
  • Take in as much of the sky as possible; take along a reclining lawn chair or a blanket and lie flat on your back.
  • It can be helpful to find the radiant point (for the Perseids, that’s the prominent constellation of Perseus; for the Delta Aquariids, it’s the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer). But avoid staring directly at it. The longer streaks are visible farther away from the radiant point.

Also, Cooke told Space.com, ditch the cell phone.
“The bright screen can throw a wrench in your efforts to adjust your night vision,” he said. “My suggestion to my friends who want to observe meteors is, leave your phone inside.”


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Special viewing opportunities for Rhode Islanders to watch the Perseid meteor shower this week

One of the best meteor showers of the year will rain from the night sky this week, but will the weather cooperate?

The Perseid meteor shower will peak early on Thursday and Friday mornings, according to the Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center.

“The Perseids are considered by many to be the best meteor shower of the year, and in 2021 we are setup for a truly amazing display,” the observatory says on its website.

Frosty Drew, located in Charlestown, is planning special viewing events, but the meteors should be visible from any dark location, as long as clouds or fog don’t obscure the sky.

The shower typically produces about 60 meteors an hour, but has generated as many as 120, according to Skyscrapers, an amateur astronomical society that operates Seagrave Memorial Observatory in North Scituate.

“Its performance is fairly consistent from year to year,” the Skyscrapers website says. “Usually green, red or orange, these shooting stars appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus. They hit our upper atmosphere at about 134,222 miles per hour.”

The Frosty Drew Observatory is holding events that start Wednesday and Thursday nights and continue into the morning.

“Sit under the beautifully clear dark sky of Charlestown, Rhode Island and have a fabulous astronomy experience as shooting stars blaze the sky!,” the observatory says.

“Perseids will start appearing more frequently after 10:00 p.m., with the shower really taking off shortly after midnight,” the observatory says. “The peak occurs in the early morning hours of August 12th and 13th just before dawn.”

Moonlight can obscure the show, but the moon should cooperate this year, according to the observatory. The moon is a waxing crescent moon and will set relatively early, “leaving super dark conditions all night long,” the observatory says.

The weather is less predictable. As of Monday, the National Weather Service was forecasting partly cloudy skies Wednesday night and a chance of showers and thunderstorms Thursday night.

The events at the Frosty Drew Observatory will start at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Telescopes will be available to view the night sky, particularly Saturn and Jupiter before the meteor show begins in earnest, likely around 10:30 p.m.

“Once meteors become frequent, we will all make our way outside to view the spectacular meteor shower,” the observatory says. “We may have portable telescopes available throughout the night with some great views of deep sky objects. The Science Center and Sky Theatre will remain open all night with videos and showcases of celestial objects we have photographed at Frosty Drew Observatory.”

Tickets are required for anyone over 4 years old. The cost is $5 per person.

“We haven’t opened ticket sales yet because we are waiting for better weather forecast data, considering that the event is weather dependent,” Scott MacNeill, observatory director, said in an email. “Ticket sales will likely open on the day of the event if weather looks promising.”

Get more information at their website, frostydrew.org.

Binoculars and telescopes are welcome but not needed to see the meteor shower, the observatory says.

The event will be canceled if its too cloudy, foggy or it rains.

jperry@providencejournal.com

(401) 277-7614

On Twitter: @jgregoryperry

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Look up! The Perseids, one of the year’s best meteor showers, peaks this week

Look up! The Perseids, one of the year's best meteor showers, peaks this week

Look up! The Perseids, one of the year’s best meteor showers, peaks this week

One of the best shows in the night sky is coming up this week. The Perseid meteor shower peaks on Wednesday night, and this year it is not to be missed!

Right now, as Earth travels along its orbit around the Sun, the planet is passing through a stream of debris left behind by a comet known as 109P/Swift-Tuttle. This comet only passes through the inner solar system once every 133 years or so. However, each year we are treated to a reminder that it’s out there, as Earth sweeps up the bits of icy debris it leaves behind on each pass. When these tiny bits of ice and rock plunge into the atmosphere, they produce the streaks of light we call the Perseid meteor shower.

2016perseid-1024x814

2016perseid-1024×814

In this 30-second exposure taken with a circular fish-eye lens, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

“If you happen to find yourself outside of the city or perhaps on a beach on Wednesday or Thursday night, look up! Every couple of minutes or so you will see a bright meteor zipping across the sky,” Denis Vida, project lead of the Global Meteor Network, said in a Western University press release.

According to the International Meteor Organization (IMO), under ideal conditions, observers typically see anywhere from 50-75 meteors per hour during the Perseids peak, which occurs around the 12th of August every year. Sometimes, this shower can deliver as many as 100 meteors per hour or more.

The Perseids radiant — where the meteors appear to originate from — is located in the northern sky, near the constellation Perseus. It never sets below the horizon at this time of year. So, rather than having to wait for the radiant to rise during the night, we can start watching for Perseids as soon as the Sun has completely set.

Aug12-Perseids

Aug12-Perseids

The location of the Perseids radiant at around midnight on August 11-12. Credit: Stellarium/Scott Sutherland

Even now, a week before the meteor shower peak, viewers can see perhaps 10-20 Perseids per hour throughout the night. The peak, which is spread out from the evening hours of August 11 to the mornimg hours of August 13, is the best time to watch.

“The best show will be just before sunrise on either August 12th or August 13th,” Vida said. “But if you are planning to observe in the evening hours on August 11th or 12th, start after 10pm and look either east or north-west. If you can locate the Big Dipper in the sky, look in its direction and you are bound to see some Perseids.”

Whatever night you get out to watch, the best time to see the Perseids during the night is usually in the hours between midnight and dawn. That is when the sky tends to be the darkest. Also, the meteor shower radiant is high in the sky at that time, which means that we are looking more or less straight into the path of the meteoroid stream.

Perseid-Activity-w-background-NASA

Perseid-Activity-w-background-NASA

This graph shows the average Perseid meteor activity from 2014-2020. Credits: Graph and background image courtesy NASA

This year, viewing will likely be better than we’ve seen for the past few years, due to the Moon. With the shower peaking only a few days after the New Moon, there will only be a thin crescent Moon in the sky that night, which will set just a few hours after nightfall. This will leave behind a nice dark night sky, which will make it easier for us to see the show!

Read on for tips on how to get the most out of watching a meteor shower.

WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?

Meteor showers happen when Earth encounters a stream of ice, dust, and rock left behind from a comet (or sometimes a special kind of asteroid). As Earth sweeps through the stream, the bits of debris plunge into the planet’s atmosphere, travelling anywhere from 54,000 to 255,000 kilometres per hour. At that speed, these meteoroids compress the air molecules in their path, squeezing them together until they glow white-hot.

The bigger the piece of debris, the brighter and longer-lasting the meteor will be.

Watch below: Dozens of Perseid fireballs captured by NASA in 2020

Click here to view the video

The Perseids occur every year between July 17 and August 26, as Earth passes through the stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. 109P/Swift-Tuttle was last seen in the inner solar system in 1992. Right now, it’s far out in the solar system, near the orbit of Neptune, and still headed even farther out. It will return in late 2125.

SPECTACULAR PERSEIDS

The Perseids are one of the strongest meteor showers of the entire year, and this alone makes it worth watching. However, there are two other ways this meteor shower distinguishes itself.

First, it has the most fireball meteors of any annual shower.

In the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Observer’s Handbook 2021, Philip McClausland writes “Fireballs are exceptionally bright meteors that are spectacular enough to light up a wide area and attract public attention.”

Watch below: An all-sky camera captures a brilliant Perseid fireball

Click here to view the video

The second is the ability of some Perseid meteors to leave behind a phenomenon known as a persistent train.

Meteors typically flash for a second and are gone. Fireballs can last up to 10 seconds. Every once in a while, though, a meteor will leave behind a trail of glowing ‘smoke’ that is visible for a short time after the meteor flash goes out. Some have been reported to last for more than an hour.

Spotting persistent trains is pretty common, depending on the meteor shower. They have only rarely been recorded, though. Studies of them go back decades, but there is little hard evidence to study the phenomenon. Still, scientists have narrowed their cause to one of two likely reasons: ionization or chemiluminescence.

Ionization means that an atom gains or loses electrons and thus takes on a negative or positive charge. In the case of a persistent train, the meteoroid produces so much energy as it plunges into the atmosphere that it strips away electrons from atoms along its path. When these ionized atoms pick up a stray electron to balance out their charge, they release a small burst of light.

“It only takes a brief moment before the atoms capture an electron and emit light, which is when you can see a glowing trail in the sky,” said Vida

Chemiluminescence is the production of light through a chemical reaction. When metals like iron and nickel vaporize off the surface of a meteoroid, they can chemically react with ozone and oxygen to produce a glow. Since these processes take much longer than the original meteor flash, the train can persist for some time after the flash goes out.

Watch below to see a persistent train produced by a December Geminids meteor

One of these explanations may account for these glowing trains, or both may cover different occurrences, at different times, and even between individual meteors. It will apparently take more sightings and recordings of this phenomenon to explain them fully.

Related: Want to find a meteorite? Expert Geoff Notkin tells us how!

METEOR? METEOROID? METEORITE?

The bright streaks seen from these showers are called meteors.

They are caused by meteoroids which are pieces of dust, rock, or ice floating through space. They can be leftover remnants of the formation of the solar system, or they can be left behind by the passage of comets or asteroids.

The smallest — ranging in size from microns to millimetres — tend to be called micrometeoroids. Anything larger than a metre in diameter is usually called an asteroid.

Meteoroid-Meteor-Meteorite-NASA-ROM-Scott Sutherland

Meteoroid-Meteor-Meteorite-NASA-ROM-Scott Sutherland

A primer on meteoroids, meteors and meteorites. Credits: Scott Sutherland/NASA JPL (Asteroids Ida & Dactyl)/NASA Earth Observatory (Blue Marble)

The larger an object is, and the faster it is going as it enters Earth’s atmosphere, the brighter the resulting meteor will be. We call the brightest of these fireballs. A fireball that ends with an extremely bright explosion is known as a bolide. Some, like the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on February 15, 2013, have been called superbolides.

Some fireballs and bolides end with bits of the meteoroid actually reaching the ground intact. When these are found, we call them meteorites.

Related: Got your hands on a space rock? Here’s how to know for sure

TIPS FOR WATCHING A METEOR SHOWER

Here is an essential guide on how to get the most out of meteor shower events.

First off, there’s no need to have a telescope or binoculars to watch a meteor shower. Those are great if you want to check out other objects in the sky at the same time — such as Jupiter and Saturn, which are up all night these days. When watching a meteor shower, though, telescopes and binoculars actually make it harder to see the event because they restrict your field of view.

Here’s the three things needed for watching meteor showers:

  • Clear skies,

  • Dark skies, and

  • Patience.

Even a few hours of cloudy skies can ruin an attempt to see a meteor shower. Since the weather is continually changing, be sure to check for updates on The Weather Network on TV, on our website, or from our app.

Living in cities makes it very difficult to see meteor showers. Those living in suburban areas, with dark back yards shielded from street lights by trees and surrounding houses, may see the brightest meteors. Rural areas offer the best viewing, though, as they are far away from city light pollution.

For most Canadians, simply driving out into the surrounding rural areas is usually good enough to get under dark skies. However, if you live anywhere from Windsor to Quebec City, that will be more difficult. Unfortunately, getting far enough outside of one city to escape its light pollution tends to put you under the light pollution dome of the next city over.

Watch below: What light pollution is doing to city views of the Milky Way

Click here to view the video

In these areas, there are a few dark sky preserves. A skywatcher’s best bet for dark skies is usually to drive north and seek out the various Ontario provincial parks or Quebec provincial parks. Even if you’re confined to the parking lot, after hours, these are usually excellent locations to watch (and you don’t run the risk of trespassing on someone’s property).

Once you have verified you have clear skies, and you have limited your exposure to light pollution, this is where having patience comes in.

For best viewing, give your eyes time to adapt to the dark. Typically, this takes about 30 minutes of avoiding any sources of bright light (includes cellphone screens). Just looking up into the sky during this time works fine, and you may even catch some of the brighter meteors in the process.

Lastly, the graphics presented for meteor showers often give a ‘radiant’ point on the field of stars, showing from where the meteors appear to originate. Meteors can flash through the sky anywhere above your head, though. So, don’t focus on any particular point in the sky. Instead, just look straight up and take in as much of the sky as you can, all at once. Also, since our peripheral vision tends to be better at night, you may be surprised at how many meteors you can catch from the corner of your eye!

For more, visit the websites of the Canadian Space Agency and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).

Thumbnail image credit: Graham Fielding Photography/Submitted to The Weather Network

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