More than 300 visitors gathered at the Al Sadeem Observatory in Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi last Thursday, December 13, to witness the peak of this year’s best meteor shower.
The Geminid meteor shower is a much-awaited yearly event for astronomy enthusiasts, because it boasts an average of 40 meteors per hour—the highest rate for any perennial meteor shower.
The event was expected to peak at around 11 P.M., but guests from all walks of life began trickling in at the Al Sadeem Observatory as early as eight in the evening.
One of the early birds was Sarah Hall’s family, who has also previously visited the observatory during the July 27 total lunar eclipse.
Hall came along with her husband and three kids, who were evidently excited about catching their first Geminid.
“When I was young, my dad would take me outdoors to quiz me about the constellations. I became aware of directions because of the stars,” shared Hall, a native of Chicago, USA.“I want that kind of knowledge be imparted to my kids, too, so I’m starting them young and exposing them to amazing things like the night sky.”
Young students from Homeschool Global Middle East also joined the meteor shower viewing, accompanied by their parents and Filipina teachers.
Even amateur astronomers and astro-photographers went out of their way to setup their own equipment.
There was 16-year-old Nikhil Salokhe who came with his parents and even brought his Celestron Astro Master 70 telescope to take a peek at the stars.
“He was complaining about the city lights, so we went all the way here to watch the event,” said Arti Salokhe, Nikhil’s mother.
Al Sadeem Observatory set up its own telescope outdoors for visitors who wished to see the moon in its waxing crescent phase, before it went down an hour before midnight to give way to the night’s main event.
Mahmoud Ali, an Egyptian in his early 40’s, said that he was thrilled to see the moon up close. “This is actually my first time viewing the moon this near,” he said. “I immediately called my son and daughter to have a look at it, too.”
When the guests have settled in, the Geminids began its first act. A fireball wowed the crowd. And then another.Some kid told his parent, “Mama, I saw a shooting star!” Indeed, the Geminids looked like one.
But meteor showers are not “stars.”They are actually rock and ice debris in space left by a comet. These pieces of debris brighten up the night sky when the Earth crosses their path as our planet revolves around the Sun.
Geminids are special, because instead of comet debris, it comes from an asteroid known as 3200 Phaeton.
The meteor shower’s peak lasted until the small hours of Friday, December 14.
“The trip going here (at Al Sadeem Observatory) was worth it,” said 24-year-old Syrian Angie Sulaiman. “I came with my sister and friends and we just went all crazy when we saw 4 to 5 really bright meteors in the sky. This was really a cool experience.”- Al Sadeem
Here are the highlights (photos and videos) of the event taken by Al Sadeem Observatory, Thabet Al Qaissieh and Cez Versoza: