Shooting stars and supermoons: top 7 celestial events in UAE skies this year

Some of the best of astronomical wonders of the year are yet to come

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From supermoons to bright meteor showers, there are plenty of astronomical events to light up the UAE’s skies this year.

A pink supermoon this week and the Quadrantids meteor showers in January already wowed stargazers, but the best is yet to come.

While some parts of the world will experience a solar and lunar eclipse, the Emirates’ skies will also host dazzling celestial events.

The National lists the top seven must-see sky shows of 2021.

May 26: a full Moon supermoon

This supermoon will be the biggest and brightest of the year. It will be at its closest approach to the Earth, meaning it will appear larger than a regular full Moon.

The pink supermoon this week was 7 per cent bigger and 14 per cent brighter, but the coming one will be even more striking.

Stargazers in Australia, parts of the US and western South America will experience a total lunar eclipse of the supermoon.

According to the Dubai Astronomy Group, early Native American tribes knew this full Moon as the Full Flower Moon because it was when spring flowers were in abundance.

June 24: the last supermoon of the year

This will be the last chance to spot a supermoon in 2021. It will be a full Moon and will appear in UAE skies.

It will not seem as big as the one in May, but it will still be bright enough to spot with the naked eye.

A photo taken on April 27, 2021 shows the April's full moon, known as the Super Pink Moon, behind the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. / AFP / GIUSEPPE CACACE
A photo taken on April 27, 2021 shows the April's full moon, known as the Pink supermoon, behind the Burj Khalifa. AFP

Native American tribes called this event the ‘Full Strawberry Moon’ because it indicated the time to gather ripened fruit and coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season.

August 2: best time to observe Saturn

During the Saturn opposition, the gas giant will be in a straight line with the Sun and the Earth and will be visible all night long. It will make a close approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated.

The Dubai Astronomy Group said this would be the best time to photograph Saturn, its rings and a few of its brightest moons.

The planet is the second largest in the solar system and has 82 moons.

Using telescopes to view the planet will enhance the experience.

August 12-13: Perseids meteor shower

This is one of the best meteor showers in the UAE and is visible annually.

At its peak, the shower produces up to 60 meteors an hour and can appear as fireballs shooting across the skies. The event takes place from July 17 to mid-August but is at its most intense from August 12 to August 13 in the Emirates.

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 debris each year, it creates the meteor shower.

The debris collides with the atmosphere and disintegrates, causing a colourful show. The comet made its closest fly-by to our planet in 1992; the next one will be in 2126.

It is recommended to watch the meteor shower away from light pollution.

August 19: see Jupiter, largest planet in the solar system

This will the best time to see Jupiter and its four largest moons, which will appear as dots next to the planet.

The event is called Jupiter at opposition takes place when the gas giant is at its closest approach to Earth.

This full-disc image of Jupiter was taken on 21 April 2014 with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).
This image of Jupiter was taken by the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy programme, a long-term project that uses Hubble telescope to capture global maps of the outer planets every year. The Great Red Spot appears in the lower right. Opal

Like the Saturn opposition, it will be in a straight line with Earth and the Sun, with its face fully illuminated.

A telescope will enhance the viewing experience, while a pair of binoculars would help spot the planet’s moons.

November 18: Leonids meteor shower

The Leonids meteor shower is also known to produce fireballs, which makes the event appear brighter in the skies.

While these showers are not as visible in the UAE, they still put on a stellar show if the weather is favourable and if they are observed away from light pollution.

They are known to be among the fastest meteors, travelling at speeds of 71 kilometres a second.

December 14: Geminids meteor shower

The Geminids are the best meteor showers of the year in the UAE, with about 120 of them shooting across the skies each hour.

They are the most visible meteors in the Emirates and can be spotted without binoculars or telescopes.

Geminids are leftovers of 3200 Phaethon, which is either an asteroid or extinct comet, according to the US space agency Nasa.

The dust left behind by the space rock burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere, making the "shooting stars" visible to sky gazers.

Geminids meteor shower 2020 in the UAE - in pictures