Among the Stars: Qatar National Library Is Qatar’s Newest Astronomy Research Hub

Press release
Published December 27th, 2020 - 10:56 GMT
Among the Stars: Qatar National Library Is Qatar’s Newest Astronomy Research Hub
Qatar National Library
Qatar National Library will give Qatar’s astronomers and scientists access to world-leading robotic telescopes from the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) in the US. 

Qatar National Library will give Qatar’s astronomers and scientists access to world-leading robotic telescopes from the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) in the US. 

The agreement makes the Library one of LCO’s Global Sky Partners, supported by the Simons Foundation, a flagship program recently recognized by the HundrED Foundation as one of the 100 most innovative educational projects in the world for 2021. 

Through the program, an unlimited number of students will have access to 50 hours of viewing through LCO’s robotic telescopes. Teachers will guide students in special lectures at the Library as they look at planets, asteroids and comets using the powerful technology. 

This new initiative, as well as the popular Astronomy Club, is part of the Library’s Science Book Forum. This special program encourages the next generation to enroll in science and engineering studies in Qatar and the MENA region by promoting science books and topics. It is chaired by Dr. Essam Heggy, a research scientist in earth and planetary sciences and a member of several space experiments that seek answers to key questions about Earth and planetary evolution. 

Commenting on the link-up with Global Sky Partners, Hind Al Khulaifi, Manager of the Children's and Young Adults' Library at the Library, said: 

“This partnership represents a huge milestone for our role in spreading enthusiasm for science in the community and makes us a hub in Qatar for astronomy research projects.  

“We want people to ask questions about the universe and to help empower the next generation of scientists, researchers and philosophers. We also want to use the excitement that outer space generates to increase public understanding of science and scientific methods, and to show inquisitive minds that science is a pathway to discovery and knowledge. 

“We hope the exciting link-up with LCO will help us to increase science awareness in communities and stimulate the scientific curiosity of learners from a young age.” 

The Science Book Forum recently ran its first Astronomy Club educational program with LCO telescopes, called “Exoplanet Transit.” The Library ran four sessions teaching students how to prepare the robotic telescope for observation, submit an observation to a research lab and analyze the data. Research papers from the classes will be posted at regular intervals on the Library’s website. 

In October, the same instruments spotted a rare blast of light from a star being ripped apart by a supermassive black hole. The phenomenon, known as a Tidal Disruption Event, is the closest such flare recorded to date, at just over 215 million light-years from Earth. 

Ahmed Saad, the Library’s Outreach Program Coordinator, said:  

“The Science Book Forum seeks to give all students access to high-quality STEM education. I’m amazed by the tenacity of the Astronomy Club participants in the "Exoplanet Transit" program, which persevered through this year’s challenges and continued to learn and conduct their research during an unprecedented global pandemic."  

In a joint statement, students Adham Ramy El-Araby, Yousef Mohammed, Muneeb Abdelrahman and Aryan Irfan, under the guidance of Dr. A. Smith at Newton British Academy in Qatar, said: 

“As physics students, we naturally gravitated towards this research program presented by the Library, driven by our curiosity about the world around us and even the world beyond what we normally view or study.  

“During the program, we were able to confirm the existence of exoplanet WASP 98b. In addition to this, we also managed to calculate the period, density and volume of the exoplanet itself. 

“We are extremely proud of our work and the effort of each team member during this process. We must thank the Library for this great learning experience, which has helped us advance and develop not only our scientific investigative skills, but also the understanding of planets beyond our own solar system.” 

LCO is a non-profit science institute based in California with the mission of advancing science and education. Its global telescope network was founded in 2005 by technologist Wayne Rosing, with groups and organizations from around the world competing to become a Global Sky Partner through an open round of proposals.  

Dr. Edward Gomez, education director at LCO, said:  

"With Global Sky Partners, we have the opportunity to inspire communities that would not normally have the opportunity to use our robotic telescope network.  

“We are very pleased to be working with Qatar National Library to realize this potential for Qatar, and look forward to introducing a new audience to science through robotic telescopes."  

 Each selected partner has an exemplary track record in astronomy education and allows LCO to reach a diverse range of leading educational projects across the world. 

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Background Information

Qatar National Library

Qatar National Library acts as a steward of Qatar’s national heritage by collecting, preserving and making available the country’s recorded history. In its role as a research library with a preeminent heritage library, the Library fosters and promotes greater global insight into the history and culture of the Gulf region. As a public library, we provide equal access for all of Qatar's residents to an environment that supports creativity, independent decision-making, and cultural development. Through all our functions, we provide leadership to the country’s library and cultural heritage sector.

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