Qatar National Library is giving astronomers and scientists in Qatar access to world-leading robotic telescopes from the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) in the US, after an agreement with Global Sky Partners.

The agreement is supported by the Simons Foundation, a flagship programme recently recognised by the HundrED Foundation as one of the 100 most innovative educational projects in the world for 2021.

Through the programme, 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.

LCO telescopeThis new initiative, as well as the popular Astronomy Club, is part of the Library’s Science Book Forum. This special programme encourages the next generation to enroll in science and engineering studies in Qatar and the MENA region by promoting science books and topics.

The programme 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 their link-up with Global Sky Partners, Hind Al Khulaifi, Manager of the Children’s and Young Adults’ Library at the Library, said the partnership represents a huge milestone for their role in spreading enthusiasm for science in the local community, and in making them a ‘hub’ 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.

He said that they hope that the exciting link-up with LCO will help them to increase science awareness in communities and stimulate the scientific curiosity of young learners.

The Science Book Forum recently ran their first Astronomy Club educational programme 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 analyse the data. Research papers from these classes will be posted at regular intervals on the Library 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.

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

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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