Several astronomical events are set to be visible in the UAE skies this year, from meteor showers to supermoons.
The Quadrantids meteor shower already lit up the skies in January, but more stellar events will take place throughout 2022.
A growing number of people in the UAE are becoming interested in astronomy, with many attending viewing events held by local organisations during celestial shows.
Hasan Al Hariri, the chief executive of the Dubai Astronomy Group, had told The National that only 100 people used to attend their astronomy events a few years ago, but that figure has more than doubled.
He said people are also becoming interested in astrophotography.
“People are getting more and more involved. They are looking to buy the telescopes and equipment for astrophotography and they want to take the training courses,” he said.
“Today, we see people producing beautiful images and it inspires other people.”
The Al Sadeem Observatory in Abu Dhabi also holds viewing events.
Thabet Al Qaissieh is an Emirati business owner and amateur astrophotographer who built the observatory on his family’s farm in the capital.
“If you look back thousands of years ago, or even 30 to 40 years ago, there’s always been a connection with space in different ways, whether it’s looking for the Suhail star [the second brightest in the sky after Sirius] for seasonal changes or in literature that involves the Moon or stars," he said.
Here are some of the most interesting celestial events set to take place in 2022.
January 18: asteroid bigger than Burj Khalifa to fly over UAE
It will pass safely by the planet, and is expected to fly directly over the UAE at a safe distance.
Known as asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1, the space rock measures 1.05 kilometres across, while the world’s tallest building in Dubai stands at 0.83km.
It will safely pass by the planet from a distance of 1.9 million km, at a speed of approximately 76,192kph.
Its closest approach towards Earth would be on January 19, at 1.49am, local time.
To view the asteroid, a telescope is required.
April 22-23: Lyrids meteor shower
The Lyrids meteor shower is one of the most stunning celestial events of the year, but the Moon will be present throughout the night this year.
About 10 to 15 meteors per hour will shoot across the skies, but visibility could be slightly affected by the brightness of the Moon.
The Lyrids are created by debris from Comet Thatcher. Records of sightings go back 2,700 years, when in 687BC Chinese astronomers reported meteors “falling like rain”.
Four full supermoons will light up the skies this year. The phenomenon occurs when the Moon is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit and appears larger than normal. The average distance between the Moon and Earth is 384,472 kilometres.
The first one will appear on May 16 and will be at a distance of 362,127km.
Another one will be visible on June 14, at a distance of 357,658km.
On July 13, the third one of the year will be visible. It will be 357,418 km from Earth.
The last one will be on August 12, at a distance of 361,409 km.
August 12-13: Perseids meteor shower
This shower is another remarkable event, when skies are clear.
Unfortunately, there will be a full Moon phase during this year’s Perseids meteor shower.
If skies were clear, stargazers would have witnessed 80 to 100 meteors per hour shooting across the skies.
The shower is caused by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862.
It leaves behind a long trail of dust and debris during its 133-year orbit around the sun.
When Earth passes through the comet’s leftovers each year, it creates the meteor shower. The debris collides with the atmosphere and disintegrates, causing the colourful show.
October 21-22: Orionids meteor shower
This is one meteor shower that could be visible, as the Moon will be in its waning crescent phase, meaning it will be shrinking.
The Moon will rise at 2.24am, with illumination of up to 17 per cent expected.
About 10 to 20 meteors per hour will be shooting across the skies.
The meteors are leftovers from the 1P/Halley comet and travel at about a speed of 66 kilometres a second.
October 25: partial solar eclipse
A partial solar eclipse will be visible from most of Europe, northern Africa, Middle East and western parts of Asia this year.
It will be at its maximum at 3.52pm, UAE time, when 35.45 per cent of the Sun’s surface will be covered by the Moon.
To safely observe the Sun, you must wear special protective eyewear or eclipse glasses – sunglasses will not protect your eyes. Photo equipment should have solar filters.
November 17-18: Leonids meteor shower
The Leonid meteors are leftover debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle, becoming visible when the Earth passes very close to the comet’s orbit.
About 14 meteors per hour will by flying across the skies. The Moon will rise at 10.04pm, with illumination of up to 44 per cent.
December 14-15: Geminids meteor shower
This is the most stunning showers of the year, with 120 meteors per hour shooting across the skies.
However, the Moon will be illuminated up to 72 per cent, which could affect visibility. The Moon will rise at 10.57pm.
Geminids are leftovers of 3200 Phaethon, which US space agency Nasa has labelled as either an asteroid or extinct comet.
They appear as shooting stars to observers when the dust left behind by the space rock burns up the in Earth’s atmosphere.