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From 1960 to 1966, Lebanon started its space activities with a group of young, motivated scientists building and testing rockets in Haigazian College (today’s Haigazian University), forming the “Lebanese Rocket Society”. Following their initial success, the programme was supported by the state of Lebanon and the experiments were conducted with the supervision of the Lebanese Army for security purposes.
Although Lebanon has not officially been an active member in international space development due to the devastating war that left it with more pressing issues since the 1970’s, the Lebanese diaspora across the globe has had numerous contributions in the space field. The contribution of Lebanon to the space field is notable, when taking into account that it is one of the smallest countries on Earth. Here are only a few notable Lebanese figures in the space field:
- Dr. Charles Elachi, Head of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Edgar Choueiri, noted researcher in the field of plasma propulsion
- George Helou, Director of the NASA Herschel Science Center
- American-Lebanese Astronaut Christa McAuliffe, NASA astronaut and space shuttle Challenger victim, who was slated to become the first teacher in space
- Jamal Bittar, PhD, currently principal of the Tripoli Evangelical School and part-time instructor at USJ, NDU and the Faculty of Sciences III of the LU in Tripoli (North-Lebanon)
- Mounib El-Eid, PhD, Professor at AUB
- Roger Hajjar, PhD, Assistant Professor at NDU
- Bassem Sabra, PhD, Assistant Professor at NDU
- Jihad Touma, PhD, Associate Professor at AUB
Young Space Activities Overview in Lebanon
- Around 4000 years ago, the Phoenicians, the native inhabitants of modern day Lebanon, were the first people to use the North Star to guide their exploration of the oceans and seas. They were the first sailors to cross the Cape of Good Hope and make a turn around the African continent.
- Astronomy has long been a popular activity in Lebanon due to the weather that allows clear skies.
- Specifically, the mountains offer great observation sites, with the added advantage of having no light pollution.
Space activities involving Lebanese abroad
Read the inspiring stories of Dr. Cyrine Nehme and Dr. Georges Helou’s recent participations in the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) experiments, as well as Alain Khayat’s achievements in working at the NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii in the Ragmag July 2012 issue:
Space related events in Lebanon
- On Saturday August 11th 2012, the LAG(Lebanese Astronomy Group) organized an observation event aimed at looking at the Perseids meteor shower.
- Friday November 16th 2012, Dr. Charles Elachi head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory gave a public lecture at the Lebanese American University in the Beirut Campus.
Space activities of the LAG (courtesy of Sarah Massalkhi)
|"Discover the Summer Sky"
Event Held By LAG
|Seminar with Dr. Nelly Mouawad:
Our Place in Space: Earth and the Universe
These are some of the events held by the Lebanese Astronomy Group last year.
- Science Days (Hippodrome de Beirut – October 2012): Public Event. The Lebanese Astronomy Group participated Science Days. Various activities took place, including water rocket construction and launching, Discussions on the exploration of the Solar , the landing sites of the moon.
- "Sun"day (Ein El Mreyse - April 17 2011): Public Event. A day celebrating the Sun. Informative, recreational.
- Venus Transit Viewing (Ouyoon El Siman June 6 2012): Members Event.
- Astronomy Event in Sebiil (August 2012): Public Event. The LAG held an Astronomy night for Seb3il village, a talk was about the universe and the possibility of an extraterrestrial life. An observation session also took place, and the attendees got the chance to launch hand-made water rockets.
- Discover the Summer Sky (July 29 2011): Members Event. One of a series of events to discover the sky of the 4 seasons.
- 100 hours of Astronomy (April 2-5 2009): Public Event. During the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the LAG participated in the 100 hours of Astronomy holding public events in Sessine square, Ein El mreyse, Martyre's square.
Follow LAG on their facebook page!
- Dr. Nelly Mouawad: Our Place in Space: Earth and the Universe (11 April, 2012)
- Dr. Antoun Daou: From The Sun To The Stars (9 May, 2012)
Country-Specific Activities for 2014
SGAC Lebanon Events 2014:
2-Observation night;Date: march 28thLocation: Oyoun El SimenEvent description:Organized by NDU Astronomy Club. NDU Astrophysics Professors joined the event, aimed at observing various space objects such as planets, galaxies and clusters.2014
LAU student took this picture from the Ouyoun El Simen event.
Interesting Web Links for the Young Generation in Lebanon
Astronomy clubs for amateurs
The following are astronomy groups that are open to welcome new people in their activities.
Specifically, this website regroups all Lebanese astronomy groups: http://www.astronomyclubs.com/country/Lebanon
A few active groups deserve featuring:
University courses in astronomy or astrophysics are offered at:
Saint Joseph University (USJ) and Notre-Dame University (NDU) offer a joint master’s degree in Astrophysics since 2010. This degree is special because it is the first joint degree between two universities in Lebanon, it is the first joint degree between two universities that follow a different educational system (American and European), and it is the first astrophysics degree offered in Lebanon.
Observatories and equipment
The first observatory to be ever built in the Middle East was in Lebanon, precisely at AUB in 1874. It was called the Lee Observatory. However, it was closed in 1979 due to political turmoil.
Today, USJ, NDU and BAU have acquired equipment which is used for teaching and research.
This equipment includes:
- BAU's observatory equipped with a 16 inch MEADE LX-200 SMT, Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on an alt-azimuthal mount with an SBIG STV
- NDU has purchased a telescope and science instruments:
- A 14-in MEADE LX-200 GPS telescope
- An SBIG ST-2000 XM CCD Camera
- An SBIG CFW8 filter wheel with UBVRI research grade filters, and an Hα filter with a 4-Å
- FWHM A LHIRES III with a 2400 lines/mm reflection grating
- USJ has a set of equipment identical to NDU's
- Gathering climate data to monitor drought
- Using satellite images to monitor snowfall dynamics on the Lebanese mountains
- Improving monitoring capacities for integrated environmental and coastal ecosystem management
- Cartography of forests by spectrometry (measurements of radiation using satellites)
- Building a digital elevation model for Lebanon
- Studying geomorphology and soil quality parameters
- Building a space atlas of Lebanon
- Monitoring landslides using GPS imaging
- Monitoring mass movements in Lebanon using radar interferometry
- Drawing land use/land cover map for Lebanon
A magnificent blog by a talented young Lebanese photographer, Ziad El-Zaatari, from Saida, Lebanon: