Attention! UAE Residents to witness The Leonids Meteor Shower.
Dubai and parts of the UAE witnessed medium to heavy showers over the weekend, and dark clouds can still be seen in the sky.
The Leonid shower, however, isn’t as striking as the Preseid meteor shower, which dazzled UAE skywatchers earlier this year in August.
For those who would like to just curl up in a warm blanket or comforter in your backyard after dark, get a flask of coffee, and keep an eye on the night sky to spot the intermittent shooting stars.
According to Nasa, the meteor shower will be visible with the naked eye as it radiates from a point within the constellation Leo the Lion (hence the name ‘Leonid’).
What Are Meteor Showers?
The first thing to know is that shooting stars are not in fact stars. Stars are big. Really big. Huge in fact, for example our sun could easily fit a million Earths inside it with room to spare.
If an actual star was to get anywhere near falling into our atmosphere, the star would burn the Earth into ashes in no time at all. Shooting stars are actually tiny bits of dust, most about the size of a grain of sand but some maybe as big as small stones.
Where do they come from?
In our solar system there are many comets that spend a lot of their time travelling among the inner planets, Venus, Earth and Mars. These comets leave trails of dust and debris hanging in space behind them.
All the planets including the Earth are whizzing around the sun at incredibly fast speeds, (in fact the Earth zooms around the sun at about 70,000 miles per hour) and from time to time we fly into the trails of dust and debris left behind by comets as they pass through the solar system.
When the Earth slams into these tiny bits of dust at high speeds, the dust particles reach incredibly hot temperatures and burn up. You see a bright streak of light burning across the night sky - a shooting star, or meteor.
How to Spot the Leonids
There are several shooting star shows, or “meteor showers” throughout the year and the next one is tonight. These shooting stars are called “Leonids” because they seem to fly out in all directions from a point in the constellation of Leo (see picture.)
They are best seen between midnight and early morning and somewhere away from light pollution. In perfect dark sky conditions you’d expect to see a shooting star every 3-4 minutes or possibly more.
This is because the Leonids is a variable meteor shower with the number of shooting stars changing year on year.
In fact there have been years where thousands of meteors have been seen over the course of an evening.
You don’t need a telescope or binoculars, all meteor showers are naked-eye viewable - in fact the only specialist equipment you might need is a thermos flask of hot chocolate to warm you up if it gets a bit chilly.
Find an area well away from bright lights that can dampen your experience of the night sky. Do take a mat or sleeping bag or a lawn chair, as well as a blanket to keep you cosy. It is summers, but the night can get windy and if you’re in the open, it may get a little chilly too.
• Lie flat on your back and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible.
• Don’t lose hope if you don’t see anything immediately – the human eye takes time to adjust, and after about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you should begin to see meteors.
• Be patient – the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.
• And last but not least – have fun.