The Qatar Foundation has revealed that Qatar will soon open an astronomy and space centre to boost local interest in celestial bodies and promote research activities in the field.
Speaking to the Gulf Times, Dr Khalid al-Subai, the director of Research Co-ordination and Compliance at the Research and Development Division of Qatar Foundation claimed that the centre would serve as a focal point of all astronomy-related academic and research activities in the region. The facility will also feature a planetarium and observatory for local enthusiasts. He said that, “we have already initiated the proposal for setting up an astronomy and space centre and the details will be announced later”. Initial reports suggest that Katara could be chosen “as one of the preferred locations for such facilities”.
Qatar has already made its mark in astronomy by announcing the discovery of two planets, which have been named Qatar 1 and Qatar 2. It is expected that the country will announce the discovery of two more planets by the end of this year. These feats have been made possible through international collaboration with institutions, such as the University of St Andrews and Harvard University.
Al-Subai was also hopeful that a grant from Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) will further encourage local interest in astronomy. With the establishment of this centre, Qatar is expecting astronomy to become a preferred academic and research course. At present, Qatar is home to only three professional astronomers.
Events such as the first Doha International Astronomy Conference, which opened at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), will also place Qatar on the global map of astronomy and space. The conference has welcomed eighty international astronomers, who will discuss planet explorations, search for life and its connectivity to the daily life of humans. The government of Qatar aims to make this conference an annual event and add other interesting features to it.