Standing in the middle of the desert, Al Sadeem Observatory is giving astronomy fans in the UAE the chance to gaze into space like never before.
The observatory, which officially opened in June 2016, was born out of the vision of two space enthusiasts — Thabet Al Qaissieh, a successful Emirati businessman and astronomy enthusiast provided the funding for the observatory, and Alejandro “Andy” Palado, a Filipino resident who originally founded the Abu Dhabi Astronomy Group.
“This collaboration really started after I got in touch with Andy to get some advice on telescopes. After meeting, we both discussed the potential for building a space observatory in Abu Dhabi, and it just went from there,” said Al Qaissieh.
Al Qaissieh said that his passion for astronomy played a big role in contributing his own personal money towards building the observatory.
“My background is business, and I own a couple of successful businesses, and so I saw a business opportunity here, but more importantly as someone who is a space hobbyist I also saw the great opportunity in getting the community engaged in astronomy,” he explained. “What gave me a big push was an old video I saw of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, who said that the private sector is not there to just make money, but to also help in building the nation up, and I see this project as contributing towards that,” he added.
Al Qassieh said that his hope for the observatory is to give space enthusiasts in the country a place they could go to and learn about the universe.
“What I had noticed before was that if I wanted to go some place to learn about space or astronomy, there really wasn’t that many options other than YouTube, and so I wanted to provide a place for that.
“If after 10 years, one student ends up going to university to study astronomy and astrophysics and goes on to pursue a career in that field, and their inspiration was from the observatory, then I have reached my goal.
“As a country we started our space journey a little over two years ago, and so I want to give a platform for people to come and see the universe, to know that there is a whole world above us to explore,” he added.
For Palado, the building of the observatory fills him with pride after his humble beginnings of meeting with other stargazers in Abu Dhabi.
“It is a great feeling no doubt (to have this observatory), but overall this is a very big step forward for the astronomy community in Abu Dhabi, to have a space observatory like this where they can come and experience the universe and all its wonders,” he said.
Al Sadeem Observatory took around six months to build, and has a 360-degree rotational dome made of fibreglass.
“At the observatory we hold lectures on space and astronomy, carry out planetary observations, deep sky observations, and we have future plans of conducting space research,” he added.
Divulging on some of the technical aspects of the observatory, Palado said the space observatory took around six months to build, and has a 360-degree rotational dome.
“It took around six months to build the space observatory, this included getting the right design, materials, and the construction itself. The dome of the two-storey observatory is made from fibreglass, while the rest of the observatory is built with concrete.
“Inside the observatory, there are several telescopes, including the main 16-inch telescope that is mounted. All of the telescopes are highly advanced and are able to give a very good viewing of space,” he added.
Palado said the space observatory had so far received a lot of requests from people wanting to visit.
“There is a lot of interest, and not just from people who are in the UAE. We get a lot of contact from people who are visiting the country and they want to come and see the observatory to get the experience.”