Star-gazers head to Dubai desert to watch Perseids meteor shower

Hazy weather caused the Perseids meteor shower to appear faint, but few bright shooting stars still impressed spectators

Poor weather in Dubai led to more demure display of the Perseids meteor shower on Wednesday night, but occasional bright fly-bys still impressed the crowd.

More than 150 people gathered at Al Qudra desert to watch the annual shower, as part of an event organised by Dubai Astronomy Group.

Hazy, humid and slightly cloudy weather reduced visibility of the meteor shower.

“The peak started at 12am,” said Hasan Al Hariri, chief executive of the astronomy group.

“The Perseids were coming in from the east and they were at their maximum until 4am. It was hazy and there were upper clouds, but the biggest problem we’re facing is the moisture – the humidity is very high.”

However, he said some meteors were still bright and appeared as 'fireballs' across the night sky.

The showers began on July 17, but were at their most intense on Wednesday night and in the early hours of Thursday.

The event started at 10pm and attracted adults and children, who spent hours gazing upwards.

Face masks were mandatory and social distancing was required.

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.

The comet made it closest fly-by to our planet in 1992 and the next one will be in 2126.

Planets Mars, Saturn and Jupiter were also visible and members of the crowd observed them through advanced telescopes provided by the astronomy group on site.

Overall, it was an educational show for groups of all ages, as they learned unique things about the planets, stars and meteor showers.

Mr Al Hariri said a record number of people are now showing up to their events, as interest in space and astronomy among residents and citizens has “significantly increased” over the past few years.

“In the beginning, when I started doing this about 20 years ago, there were a maximum number of about five to 10 people who would come,” he said.

UAE’s space industry has seen a major boost in the past four to five years, with space education in schools on offer, space camps for youth, an active astronaut programme, first mission to Mars and the establishment of a local satellite development facility.

The next meteor shower will be the Geminids in December, which also put on a stellar show.