SCASS emerges as premier institution in Arab, Islamic world

SHARJAH, 18th February, 2019 (WAM) — The Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences, SCASS, established in 2015 following the directives of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad 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.

Prof. Hamid M.K. Al Naimiy, Chancellor of the University of Sharjah and Director of the Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences, said that 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,” Prof. Al Naimiy said.

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.

Rehan said that these help in the study of the 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.

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.

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 the telescope and monitoring important targets such as eclipses and eclipses, which occur once or twice a year.

The observatory has three telescopes. The largest telescope is also 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.

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 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 the 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.

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

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.


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