Sharjah: Those keen on developments to do with space exploration and astronomy can look forward to experiencing first-hand the scientific theories that have helped shape our understanding of the universe at the Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences when it opens to the public on July 2.
The centre was built on the instructions of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to promote and develop education about astronomy and space sciences in the Arab world.
A tour of the two-storey centre located in the University City in Sharjah starts with an educational exhibition that provides visitors with a hands-on learning experience through game-like models.
The exhibition is divided into four sections that highlight the principles of astronomy and physics, early understanding of light behaviour and spectrum, and the formation of the universe to name a few.
The highlight of the centre is its high-tech planetarium that takes the audience through a journey through the cosmos to explore the constellations, the planets and the brightest of stars.
Marwan Anwar Shwaiki, the Planetarium’s manager, said that the planetarium — with a dome spanning a diameter of more than 18 metres — is equipped with a set of high-precision digital projectors and the most advanced MegaStar projector, which can display nearly 10 million celestial bodies. The planetarium can accommodate more than 200 visitors at a time.
In addition to eight other space-related documentaries, the planetarium also displays a short movie titled Deen Al Qayyimah (That is the Correct Religion), which is authored by Shaikh Sultan himself under a title borrowed from a verse in the Quran.
The documentary tells the story of how the universe was created by Allah at the moment of the Big Bang.
Abdul Dayem Kaheel, a visitor at the exhibition and creator of Kaheel7.com website, one the biggest websites on astronomy in the Islamic context with information drawn from it translated into nine languages, commended the 360-degree movie.
“My love for astronomy started from the Quran. God orders us to study astronomy as well as other sciences,” he said. “The space and astronomy centre is one of Shaikh Sultan’s many great cultural developments. I believe that Islamic scholars should come here to learn about astronomy to understand the Quran better.”
Shwaiki said the facility will also be used for research by students from the University of Sharjah.
“We have an astronomical lab that can be used by secondary schools and university students to learn astrophysics. We will also have a space lab for students from the University of Sharjah to build satellites,” he said.
Shwaiki said the centre hopes to create space technology to keep pace with the UAE’s national agenda. He added that he expects the research centre to be functional next year as a course on space technology is introduced in the University of Sharjah.
An astronomical observatory at the complex houses a telescopic system comprising a reflecting telescope of 450 mm diameter connected with a refracting telescope of 180 mm diameter, both devices mounted on one base.
The system is connected to an electronic control network that posts the acquired data on the internet to enable users to access it anywhere in the world. The observatory also has a high-precision spectroscope that enables a research team to study unique phenomena such as unstable and double stars and formulate mathematical models for them.
Academically, the observatory plays a significant role in teaching astronomy and astrophysics to university students, with the programme seeing consistently higher enrolment every semester.
The centre is surrounded by lush green areas that will be open to the public to unwind. Giant structures modelled on the planets of the solar system are spread around the park with the centre’s golden dome representing the sun.
Other public facilities include the Universe in Holy Quran Exhibition, a galactic cafeteria and a souvenir shop.