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Monday, October 18, 2021

In search of new planets, Qatar to push into the final frontier



Flush with $6 million in grant money from the Qatar National Research Fund, the country’s leading astronomer has announced plans to set up new observatories on three different continents.

Speaking to Gulf Times, Dr. Khalid Al-Subai, the first Qatari astronomer, said the aim of the facilities is to find new planets faster:

“We already have an observatory in New Mexico. In addition, we will set up one more station in New Mexico, one in Canary Islands and another one in India or Iraq.”

The astronomer, who was part of the team that discovered three new planets in 2011 (Qatar-1a, Qatar-1b, and Qatar-1c), added that at least $1 million of the grant will go toward developing an appreciation for astronomy at home.

Space City?

Previously, Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority discussed the construction of a $3.3 billion Space City near Al Khor. The project, which has been in the planning phases for half a decade, is slated to include a research facility dedicated to satellite and space sciences, as well as a science museum.

More recently, Al-Subai, who said there are only three professional astronomers in Qatar, said a planetarium may also be set up here.

Establishing a space hub, possibly at Katara, could attract more people to the field, he said in February:

“There is a great interest in the study of astronomy in the country and many youngsters want to pursue it. Once the new center is realized, there will be many academic courses and research activities.”


Credit: Photo by Brian Gurrola

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