x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

An Arabic Sky

A flashy new iPhone application from VITO Technology - translated with help from Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - provides the region's would-be astronomers a hand-held planetarium.

The night sky is now available in Arabic. As we report today, a flashy new iPhone application from VITO Technology - translated with help from Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - provides the region's would-be astronomers a hand-held planetarium. Users only need to point their iPhones skyward and the constellations can be identified. An Arabic version of Star Walk, as the app is aptly named, was unveiled this week.

From VITO's vantage, Star Walk is perfect for anyone "trying to impress their date" to those "showing their kids what the Universe is all about". Over 9,000 heavenly bodies are identifiable with the programme, along with moon phases, meteor showers, and sunset and sunrise timings.

Fair enough. But what took so long? This gadget has long been available in English, Dutch, Chinese and a host of other languages. Arabic speakers in the Middle East, whose ancestors sowed the seeds of western astronomy, have been left in the dark for too long.

Of course, the biggest obstacle to overcome may not be reading the results, but locating a clear sky where the Star Walk would work best. In many parts of the region, starry nights have been one of the costs of development.

But the stars are up there and you don't need to trek too far into the desert to see their spectacular canopy. Now, for under Dh11, you can have names for so many of the wonders above.