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Astronomical observatory to be built in Mleiha

Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project, a new tourist, heritage and eco-tourism destination 50km east of Sharjah city, is to have an astronomical observatory built on top of one of the area’s mountains. The observatory is one of the outcomes from an agreement signed between Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences (SCASS), under which observatories will be constructed at a number of Shurooq tourist destinations across Sharjah.

The first phase of the Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project was opened in January, offering tourists the opportunity to discover the area’s ancient archeological sites, visit the Mleiha Archaeological Centre, explore the area’s natural beauty and take part in a variety of outdoor adventure activities. An estimated AED 250 million (US$ 69m) is expected to be invested in developing the destination over the next few years.

The astronomical observatory is planned for phase two of the Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project. The destination’s desert location, far from the city and with little artificial light, is already an ideal place for visitors to star gaze. The new observatory is expected to provide visitors with a powerful space telescope under the supervision of Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences.

Under the agreement signed with SCASS, Shurooq will also help promote the Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences to tourists, which is located in Sharjah’s University City. The centre, which was opened to the public last year, features a high-tech 200-seat planetarium, a a 450mm reflecting telescope and a 180mm refracting telescope. Shurooq also plans to build observatories and install telescopes at a number of its tourist destinations over the coming years.

The study of astronomy flourished throughout the Islamic world between the 9th and 16th centuries A.D. (184 A.H. through till 1009 A.H.), including the construction of great observatories. Today, hundreds of stars and constellations are still known by their Arabic names, such as Aldebaran, Altair, Deneb, Rigel and Vega, whilst more than 20 of the moon’s craters are named after Muslim astrono­mers, such as Alfraganus (al-Farghani), Albategnius (al-Battani) and Azophi (al-Sufi).

SCASS was established in 2015 to develop and promote education about astronomy and space sciences in the Arab World. The center dedicated is open to educators, school students, university students, researchers and the general public.

Source: Shurooq, SCASS

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