Explainer: All you need to know about Egypt’s Grand Astronomical Observatory

Zeinab El-Gundy , Thursday 23 Feb 2023

Last week Egypt announced plans to construct in Sinai the largest astronomical observatory in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Astronomical Observatory
Inside the Kottamia observatory in East Cairo. Photo : NRIAG

Here is what we know about the new observatory.

  • The government made the decision to construct the observatory in 2016, according to head of the Egyptian National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics (NRIAG) Gad El-Qady.
  • In a statement to Ahram Online, El-Qady confirmed news reports that the observatory will be constructed on the summit of Sinai’s Mount Abu Rujum.
  • The location was chosen from among 20 summits studied by the NRIAG in South Sinai.
  • The cost of building the observatory is an estimated $100 million, and it will take about four to five years to construct, according to El-Qady.
  • The observatory will be larger and more advanced than the existing Kattamiya Astronomical Observatory (KAO).
  • The new astronomical observatory will have a main mirror that is 6.5 metres in diameter, compared the mirror in the Kattamiya observatory, which is 1.88 metres in diameter.
  • After the new observatory is built, the Kattamiya observatory will serve as an international training centre for astronomy and space sciences.
  • Light pollution from urban sprawl is impeding visibility from the Kattamiya observatory, which is 80 km away from Cairo and was built in 1964 as an alternative to the Helwan astronomical observatory. The Helwan observatory, which was built in 1902, faced the same problem of light pollution in the late 1950s.