Lebanon has recently announced plans to build the region’s highest permanent astronomical observatory, which will be set up by Notre Dame University-Louaize on one of the highest peaks in Lebanon (3,073 meters): Al-Znanir peak in Bsharri, North Lebanon.
“We have been in talks for the past two years with the Bsharri Municipality, securing access to utility services to the site and finalizing the area selection,” NDU astrophysics professor Roger Hajjar explained to The Daily Star. “We are in the process of drafting a memorandum of understanding with the municipality and, once it’s signed, we will go ahead with building the observatory.”
This observatory will cost around $500,000.- and will include a 6-meter-wide dome over the telescope and a residence for scientists. It will be the highest in the Arab world, and even higher than the National Observatory in Turkey.
At this stage of the project planning, Notre-Dame University of Louaize is in the process of inviting donors to contribute the required fund. Donors will have the privilege of having their names marked to prosperity on this observatory; for at least a hundred years, according to Hajjar.
In this regard, Hajjar pointed out to the American University of Beirut’s Lee Observatory, which still holds the name of Henry Lee, a British merchant who donated 150 pounds sterling for its construction in the 19th century. This Observatory at AUB has been inactive since the Civil War and is used as a storehouse.
Lebanon is already the home of two active observatories, the first is a telescope of a 50-centimeter lens at the Beirut Arab University (BAU) and the second is a 60-centimeter-lens’ telescope at the NDU campus. As for the upcoming observatory in Bsharri, Japan has already donated a telescope of a 60-centimeter lens to Notre Dame University-Louaize.
It is interesting to know that, in the last few years, the Lebanese people have become more and more interested in astronomy and stargazing. According to the NDU astrophysics professor Roger Hajjar, who is a partner in the telescope retailer Sky Optics, “Astronomy has grown to be an adult in Lebanon […]. When we first opened, we would sell maybe 30 telescopes a year, while today we sell between 600 and 700 telescopes a year.”
In order to promote the Lebanese’s interest in astronomy and space beyond stargazing, Lebanon will host World Space Week in the first week of October and will include related activities, such as public lectures, among which a presentation by a NASA scientist, as well as a movie screening and a science-fiction-themed board game night.