x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Work to start on RAK observatory this year

Construction of the UAE’s first space observatory will begin in October in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah.

Astronomer Hasan Al Hariri talks at American University of Sharjah on May 14, 2014. Leading astronomers met to give updates on the construction of the new UAE Astronomical Observatory Project. Lee Hoagland / The National
Astronomer Hasan Al Hariri talks at American University of Sharjah on May 14, 2014. Leading astronomers met to give updates on the construction of the new UAE Astronomical Observatory Project. Lee Hoagland / The National

SHARJAH // Construction of the UAE’s first space observatory will begin in October in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah.

With guest rooms for up to 70 people, it will be an “astronomical resort”, said Hasan Al Hariri, head of Dubai Astronomy Group, which is acting as a consultant.

The project is due to be completed in three years and will be above cloud level on a peak about 1,600 metres above sea level.

“One of the criteria for selecting the site is that it has road access,” said Mr Al Hariri.

“We don’t want to build an observatory on the top of a mountain and find no one can get there.”

It is hoped the observatory, which has a starting budget of Dh30 million, is the first of three.

Other possible sites include the mountains of Hatta and Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain.

“We don’t want to make people travel so far to go to an observatory,” said Mr Al Hariri.

“This is part of the way we can bring astronomy as close to the people as possible. Once they have a taste, they will be hooked.”

The first observatory, Al Marsad, will have a cluster of telescopes under a dome and a crescent-shaped visitor centre.

It will be funded by the Government’s Information and Communication Technology Fund and used to host events for schools, universities and amateur astronomers.

Long-term plans include a 10-metre telescope for research. The observatory will also be used to confirm moon sightings at the start and end of Ramadan.

mcroucher@thenational.ae