The universe holds many mysteries that continue to baffle many of us, including scientists and astronomers, for Alejandro Palado, co-founder and director of Al Sadeem Astronomy in Al Wathba, this enigma is what makes space and everything about it all the more exciting.
We chat with the Filipino space enthusiast Alejandro Palado to find out more about his passion and how it is to run the first (and perhaps the only) private space observatory in the UAE.
Can you please tell us more about yourself ?
I’m a respiratory therapist by profession and astronomer by heart.
I arrived in the UAE in 2005 to work for a hospital. Since I’m a big fan of science, astronomy in particular, I started looking for a planetarium or observatory here and couldn’t find one.
I then created an astronomy group where people could share their love and passion for space with one another. That was pretty much the genesis of Al Sadeem Observatory.
At what age did your interest in space started?
Since childhood. I love looking up in the sky even at a young age. But since we were poor, I couldn’t get an equipment for me to see stars up close.
What made you decide to establish Al Sadeem Astronomy?
I was actively doing public astronomy and even put up an Abu Dhabi Astronomy blogsite with an email address.
An Emirati guy named Thabet Al Qaissieh wrote to me asking for help to set up a small telescope in their farm in Al Wathba.
So I went there and had this idea to turn it into a small observatory after seeing the place. I suggested it to Thabet and he loved the idea.
What were the challenges in putting up the observatory?
First is getting the proper equipment. But we were lucky enough to meet an Emirati businessman whose also into astro-photography.
Second is the weather since sand is everywhere especially in our location and it can damage the equipment.
Now, it’s the number of requests and visitors coming to the observatory regularly. It can be quite challenging at times to accommodate all of them.
What are the services offered at the observatory?
We offer all observatory services. We welcome guests to experience stargazing with our astronomer.
We participate in community lectures like science festival. We have a portable planetarium that we can bring to different locations like schools, centres and malls. We also offer basic astronomy course like basic to intermediate astro-photography course
Can you tell us about the equipment you have in the observatory?
We have all types, from refractors, reflectors and compound, telescopes in various sizes.
We have different types (altazimuth and equatorial) of telescope mounts from altazimuth to equatorial.
Our main telescope is a Meade LX850, which is 16 inches in diameter.
We have a special solar telescope for sun observations. We have different DSLR cameras and CCD cameras for astro-photography and astrometry.
Who are your common visitors in the observatory?
We have guests from all ages and nationalities. Our young and adult visitors have the same expression of awe and wonder when they see sky objects from our telescopes. It’s really wonderful to see.
What are the significant achievements of the observatory since you opened?
I’m proud to say that we build the first private observatory of its kind in the region.
We’re directly involved in black-hole monitoring. We participated in the exoplanet discovery together with 32 more observatories around the world.
We were awarded an MPC observatory code and AAVSO observatory code. These codes are essential for observatories who are doing higher science.
Lastly, we achieved our vision to put UAE as one of the countries that actively engaged in scientific observations.
Do you think the UAE will play a prominent role in the space industry in the near future?
Yes, with the UAE space agency overseeing the space industry, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre actively developing future UAE astronauts and observatories like us bringing scientific observations and discoveries about space, the country no doubt will be a prominent player in the space industry.
AED 200, AED 50 for ages 12-17 years old, Free for children 11 years old and below.
For booking and more information, visit: alsadeemastronomy.ae