Dubai: Three mobile planetariums are doing the rounds of the UAE educating residents about planets, stars and constellations in the Milky Way.
The brainchild of an amateur astronomer Nazar Hezam, 38, the planetariums are inflatable plastic domes that give a 360 degree view of a simulated night sky and host a number of space shows and movies.
“I am passionate about astronomy and have spent around Dh400,000 for the mobile planetariums. The deflated domes are folded and kept inside my six-wheel mobile observatory truck which I use to travel around the UAE to teach students and adults about celestial objects in the sky,” said Hezam, who is a computer engineer by profession and works at the Abu Dhabi Police Headquarters.
The way it works
“The three mobile planetariums come in varying diametres of seven, six and five metres,” said Hezam.
The seven metre planetarium, weighing 45 kilograms, can accommodate 70 adults and 85 children. The six-metre one is 55 kilograms and can hold 40 adults and 60 children while the smallest dome, weighing 35 kilograms, can fit 30 adults and 45 children.
Inside, a simulation of the night sky is projected via a projector which is tilted to an angle to correspond to the latitude where the dome is placed.
“The inflatable planetariums have many unqiue features. The hemispherical shape of the domes work well for viewing the night sky and the space shows. I have bought a special fish-eye lens to project 360-degree images and videos on the dome. With a high-tech computer and a special software, quality images are displayed inside the dome.”
Hezam said it takes six to 12 minutes to inflate the domes and a minute to deflate them.
He said the space shows cover a range of subjects like what causes night and day, the moon and its phases, stars, planets and constellations in the Milky Way.
The domes are usually installed at schools and public event venues. Ticket prices vary from Dh10 to Dh25.
Duration of the shows ranges from half an hour to almost an hour.
Hezam said since the launch of the mobile planetariums last January, he has visited more than 35 schools and attended at least 100 events.
“The response has been overwhelming. People have never seen anything like this in the UAE and are so excited to be a part of it.” The amateur astronomer is also on a star trek, chasing a long cherished dream of discovering a supernova.
He has invested over Dh1 million in high-quality telescopes in the hope that one day he will make the discovery.
“I want to go deeper and deeper into the celestial world. I will be satisfied only when I have made a big discovery,” said Hezam, who got hooked on to astronomy when he was just seven years old.
“A supernova (explosive death of a star) can happen anytime. When it does, the sky lights up with a spectacular flash. I have to be lucky to capture the phenomenon. Who knows if I succeed, I might even have a supernova or comet named after me,” Hezam added.