Putting Sharjah and UAE on the World Map in Space Exploration

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Continuous achievements beyond the years of its small age … to reach the universality of space and astronomy after only 3 years of knowledge and revealing the secrets of the universe and secrets.

The Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences (SCASS), established in 1015 following the directives and vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, is one of the most important specialised centres in the field of space sciences and astronomy in the region. It is considered a strategic milestone in Sharjah’s quest for excellence in the field of scientific research and ambitious plans by the UAE to establish its presence in space.

The SCASS, which has been exploring the infinite mysteries of the vast cosmic space with its myriad galaxies, stars and planets offers a view of the life of the universe in detail through its numerous discoveries and has become a source and main reference for studies and research in space, astronomy and future exploration throughout the Arab world.

H.E. Prof. Hamid M.K. Al Naimiy, Chancellor of the University of Sharjah and Director of the Sharjah Center for Astronomy and Space Sciences, said that the Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences (SCASS) has been working on plans to expand space research programmes as well as organise scientific conferences and seminars in cooperation with the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and other international institutions involved in space programmes and scientific research.

He emphasised that the Centre has established itself as a premier research and educational institution specialising in space and astronomical sciences in the UAE and the larger Arab and Islamic world. It has become the main source of reference for Arab and Muslim astronomers and scientists, he added.

“In order to promote scientific research, the Centre also organises workshops and seminars for future astronauts to familiarise them with the basics of astronomy like space travel, the space environment and astronomical principles,” said H.E. Prof. Hamid Al Naimiy.

Besides, the SCASS complements and supports other astronomical research centres in the region. The field of space science is vast and each centre has a specialised field that integrates with various other disciplines in other centres.

The Centre’s chief mission is the study of universe and various celestial bodies, including meteorological observations as well as analysis of weather data and ionosphere, the building of satellites, the study of Mars and its surroundings, and other astronomical activities such as scientific exhibits at the centre.

Radio Astronomy Laboratory

The Radio Astronomy Laboratory at the SCASS focuses on studying the invisible and unexplored side of the universe by listening in on the range of radio waves produced by the celestial bodies.

The “Radio Astronomy Laboratory” at the SCASS is one of the six research laboratories being built at the centre. The centre boasts a world-class astronomical observatory equipped with three different size telescopes: a reflecting 45 cm (deep-sky observations), a refracting 18 cm (lunar and planetary observations), and a refracting 10 cm (solar observations).

According to Mohamed Rehan, a research assistant in the Radio Astronomy Laboratory, the laboratory team has created a system of aerodynamic dishes that operates within the Decametric Radio Telescope to receive radio waves emitted by solar storms.

This system includes four double antennas and a receiver specifically designed to capture a specific radio frequency of 20.1 MHz, and recorded data through computer programmes as well as analysis and retention as a reference for researchers in this area, and to conduct scientific studies by university students and trainees. Work is already underway to develop and expand this system.

Pointing out the importance of these studies, he said that these help in the study of universe, in addition to examining the impact of solar storms on the planet, which coincide with the increase in the number of sunspots. These solar storms directly affect the telecommunications, whether on land or via communications satellites, he added.

3 Meteorological Observation Towers

The Meteorology Centre at the SCASS is responsible for the implementation and operation of a number of projects including the Emirates Meteorological Monitoring Network, which consists of three towers, located at the SCASS in Sharjah and Al-Ahr, near Al Ain and Liwa, south of Abu Dhabi.

Aisha al-Owais, a research assistant at the Meteorological Laboratory, said that the aim of these towers is to monitor the sky for meteorites and space debris. Each tower contains 17 cameras monitoring the infinity of skies in all directions.

The second project, “Automatic Learning”, aims to teach the drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle, to distinguish meteorites from earth rocks if meteorite debris is detected by these observation towers.

The third is to analyse meteorites using specialised devices that determine the chemical and mineral composition of the meteorite to verify conclusively that it is a meteorite. These components and minerals are determined to determine the conditions and the origins of the solar system.

Astronomical Observatory

Mohammed Talafeh, a research assistant and astronomer, said that since its opening, the observatory has been teaching university students, schools and the general public the use of telescope and monitoring important targets such as eclipses and eclipses, which occur once or twice a year. It is a scientific research platform that aims to compete with leading players in the world of science, astronomy and space research.

The Observatory has three telescopes. The largest telescope is the largest in the UAE, with a diameter of 43 centimetres. The second, 18 centimetres in diameter, is used for monitoring planets and the sun. The third is the smallest one and is 10 centimetres long. It is dedicated to observing direct sunlight.

He said: “The observatory is dedicated to observing the planets outside the solar system and the sun (exoplanet). Although many planets have been detected outside the solar system, through our observation we add to the existing trove of information and studies on this subject. Since it is a new science, every new discovery, even if it is simple and small, is important and added to the balance of discoveries that preceded it. “

Scientific research

The Centre boasts a number of important laboratories, which aim to support the research conducted by the University of Sharjah and the SCASS. The Satellite Laboratory at the SCASS, in collaboration with the Istanbul Technical University, is being used for the purpose of monitoring X-rays from the sun and stars, and observing the earth. The laboratory also works on the GNSS system, which will work in conjunction with the GPS system, which provides navigation systems that provide geographical locations with global coverage. The system will soon be implemented in the UAE.

Space Weather Laboratory

The Space Weather Laboratory studies the interaction between the sun and other planets in the solar system. But the predominant focus of the laboratory is to study the effects of solar activity on the stratosphere, especially the ionosphere because it is the ionised layer affected by any disturbance or solar activity. The study helps to understand the impact of changing conditions in the sun on global communications systems, and GPS.

The Space Weather Laboratory leads the study of space weather and the ionosphere by providing important devices that measure the most important factors to understand the nature of the ionosphere in the UAE.

The Centre has two devices, the Dual Frequency GNSS Receiver, which helps to study and measure the value of a factor called total electronic content. The second is called ionosonde. Its function is to send waves at different frequencies to determine the response of the ionosphere to these frequencies.

The Laboratory is currently working on the study of the ionosphere layer on Mars, as the UAE’s focus is on the Mars exploration, and is planning to launch its own mission to Mars in 2020, which will provide a wealth of information about the red planet.

Noura al-Amiri, a research assistant at the Space Weather and Ionosphere Laboratory, said that her current study of the ionosphere helps to understand the nature of the ionosphere in Mars and compare it with its Earth counterpart.

Planetarium and exhibits

The Astronomical Dome, the largest astronomical dome in the Middle East, is equipped with a highly advanced equipment to capture the magic of stars and space. It offers scientific simulations of space and astronomy sciences for visitors.

Mohammed Hani, an astronomer at the Astronomical Dome, said that the Astronomical Dome attracts school students and the general public in their hundreds. The number is constantly increasing due to the increasing interest in astronomy and space. The visitors visit the Dome and tour the interactive exhibitions, which provide them with an opportunity for self-learning.

The Centre organises astronomical camps for students that are compatible with school holidays, usually in winter, summer and spring. The camps aim to promote astronomy and space culture among school students and encourage them to discover this science in the future world.

Students can study the challenges facing astronauts and how to solve them in order to adapt to a successful and safe space flight, as well as astronomical and physical concepts related to Earth, planets, sun, stars and galaxies as well as astrophysics.

Students can also learn how to use space telescopes and space to learn how to use astronauts and astronauts to learn how to simplify astronomy and space, and to encourage students to study it in line with the UAE’s approach to space.

Dr Hani pointed out that the Centre organises a number of scientific lectures and seminars throughout the year in all disciplines and branches of astronomy in order to raise awareness about education and career opportunities in this field. The Centre also attracts scientists and astronauts from top international universities to deliver these lectures. The SCASS has put Sharjah and UAE on the global map in space exploration and study of astronomy, highlighting its importance as an institution dedicated to scientific research and space exploration.

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