DUBAI 13 August 2017: I woke up till well past midnight – I scanned the heavens with my Nikon binoculars – but saw nary a meteor streak though the sky. Perhaps, I was too early?
They say that most meteor showers are best after midnight, and the Perseids are no exception. However a bright moon + the bright lights of Dubai [a city that never sleeps] – may have tampered with my night vision, which is, not the best, even at regular times, I admit.
I was hoping to catch at least one – as a child I was told if you see a shooting star and made a wish – that wish would have come true. I was primed and ready.
I was up till 1:30am – and could see sundry distant suns, including the Belt of Orion – but no shooting stars.
Perhaps the cosmos spectacle was better visible from another location than bright Dubai.
But why was I disappointed? I already knew the build-up to the event was all hype. The expectations that the sky will be as bright as day – were far from the truth.
“This year we have a new one — reports are circulating that this year’s Perseids will be the “brightest shower in recorded human history,” lighting up the night sky and even having some meteors visible during the day. We wish this were true… but no such thing is going to happen.” says Bill Cooke, who leads NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
In this 30 second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Photo Credit: (Nasa/Bill Ingalls)
He explains that Perseids never reach storm levels (thousands of meteors per hour). “At best, they outburst from a normal rate between 80-100 meteors per hour to a few hundred per hour. The best Perseid performance of which we are aware occurred back in 1993, when the peak Perseid rate topped 300 meteors per hour. Last year also saw an outburst of just over 200 meteors per hour.
“This year, we are expecting enhanced rates of about 150 per hour or so, but the increased number will be cancelled out by the bright Moon, the light of which will wash out the fainter Perseids. A meteor every couple of minutes is good, and certainly worth going outside to look, but it is hardly the “brightest shower in human history,” Cooke said.
So, when was the greatest show of all time?
“I think many meteor researchers would give that award to the 1833 Leonids, which had rates of tens of thousands, perhaps even 100,000, meteors per hour. During a good Perseid shower under ideal conditions, you can see about one meteor per minute. Now imagine yourself being back in 1833, on the night of Nov. 12. Looking outside, you would see something like 20 to 30 meteors PER SECOND.”
By Eudore R. Chand