The Sky Gate Telescope Project Launches in Wadi Rum

24 September 2013

Under a blanket of stars in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert USAID and its partner ASEZA unveiled the Sky Gate Telescope Observatory, giving visitors and local residents a unique window into the heavens. The Sky Gate Project, launched September 23 under the patronage of ASEZA chief Commissioner Dr. Kamel Mahadien and USAID Mission Director Beth Paige, is the first public telescope of its kind in the Middle East. The telescope is designed not only to educate scientists, students and tourists on astronomy but also to help alleviate poverty and stimulate tourism in the region by attracting international and local visitors to the area.

The largest telescope in Jordan, it can view stars and planets up to 1.5 million light years away from Earth. The telescope, installed in an observatory in the middle of the Wadi Rum, will now be available for tourists and residents who want to star gaze in the desert – a location that provides an optimal viewing experience due to the lack of light pollution. The observatory was established by a grant from the Aqaba Community and Economic Development Program, a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project, in collaboration with the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority.

The Sky Gate Telescope was developed as a scientific, cultural, and tourism development project that will enhance the Wadi Rum visitor experience and attract international and local tourists to spend the night camping in the desert. The project trained a group of local Bedouins – now employed by the observatory – to conduct star gazing tours and assist visitors in operating the telescope.