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Posted On: 12 August 2011 07:38 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:11 pm

Shooting stars set to light up Doha sky

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A spectacular treat awaits stargazers in Qatar as the Perseid meteor shower peaks tomorrow, generating a visual extravaganza of fast-moving shooting stars. Qatar will experience the most exciting Perseid meteor shower during the overnight hours tomorrow and Sunday, according to an expert. “The showers are expected to be seen tomorrow from 10pm onwards and will continue until early morning the next day,” said Sheikh Salman Jabor Al Thani, a leading Qatari astronomer and head of Astronomy Division at the Qatar Scientific Club. “However, a major chunk of these meteors will not be seen as we have the full moon now, which can play spoilsport. Due to the bright moonlight, the fainter meteors will be concealed from view, leaving only the brightest Perseids accessible to the human eye. Still one can sit back looking into the north-eastern sky with the naked eye to enjoy the spectacle,” he told The Peninsula. According to NASA, each summer, earth passes into a trail of debris falling from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. This debris, usually as small as sand grains, hits the top of the earth’s atmosphere at 140,000mph and heats up enough to burn or light itself due to atmospheric friction. This results in the spectacle known as the Perseids meteor shower, or what are popularly recognised as “shooting stars.” With some 100 to 120 meteors expected per hour, stargazers here will be able to observe a few impressive bursts of light streaks at night, despite the moon’s obstruction. “We might be able to see some 50 to 60 per hour, which is a good number. Sometimes people can be lucky enough to see fireballs which are due to larger debris as rocks enter the atmosphere. These can at times take 30 minutes or more to burn up. Majority of the particles are small grains and hence burn up in one or two minutes.” “If we are lucky, we can even see some fire works in the sky, which happens when the particles blow up. Three months ago few of the sky-watchers had witnessed this kind of spectacle here from Qatar,” Sheikh Al Thani NASA astronauts and international meteor watching organisations expect this Perseid shower to be more active and distinguished than the previous times as it will be the most intensive meteor shower, said Sheikh Al Thani. The Perseids are so-called because the point they appear to come from, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus. The fragile debris grains disintegrate long before they reach the ground. While the meteors are certainly bright, they are typically not much larger than a grain of sand. However, as they travel at immense speeds, these tiny particles put on an impressive show. “Now, few of us have gathered away from the city to see if we are able to see some showers. People can witness it even tomorrow after midnight but more will be seen from Saturday night. All one needs to do is watch the horizon,” he said.