Stairway to heaven. Tunnel that takes visitors to the main observatory Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Have you ever wondered what it must be like in outer space or if you could ever take a tour of the gigantic Milky Way in its entirety?

Come April and the region’s first public observatory Al Thuraya Astronomy Centre will be ready to give wing to the imagination of the region’s budding astronomers, space enthusiasts and amateur skygazers alike.

“Thanks to the amazing work by Dubai Municipality, we are now very close to the unveiling of the extraordinary. It should within the next couple of months,” Hasan Al Hariri, the founder-director of the Dubai Astronomy Group (DAG) that will manage the new Dh40-million Dubai Municipality project in Mushrif Park told XPRESS during an exclusive tour last week.

“When it’s ready, it will provide a one-of-its kind, out-of-the world, immersive experience. Something as surreal as perhaps walking among the stars in the sky. Not just that, we have elements that will give visitors not just the sights and sounds of space but also the feel, smell and even taste of it. All five senses will be involved,” said Al Hariri, putting an end to longstanding speculation about the tentative start of the giant observatory modelled on the Astrolabe, an ancient astronomical device that measures the incline of a celestial body in the sky.

One giant telesecope

Housing a giant telescope covered by a revolving dome, an astronomy and space gallery and an exhibition of scientific games, the observatory is at the heart of a yet-to-be-completed 29,600 square foot complex inspired by the Pleiades, a star cluster in the constellation Taurus and one that’s most visible to the naked eye in the night sky due to its proximity to Earth. “Thuraya is the Arabic name for a group of stars and often looks like a giant celestial chandelier which is what the centre will closely resemble when we are finally up and running,” added Al Hariri, who founded DAG as an amateur body for UAE space lovers in the 1990s.

Comprising a main building with two floors also housing a set of multi-purpose halls including a library on the ground level, the International Space Centre-styled observatory, said Al Hariri, will cover the most prominent subjects related to astronomy besides being a centre for observing various astronomical phenomena. “This first-of-its-kind project will be an educational reference for students and an observatory for both the general public and amateur astronomers. But it’s a place where everyone will fall in love with the moon and stars,” he added.