Growing number of sky gazers in Oman

Muscat: The June 21 annular eclipse gave immense satisfaction to sky enthusiasts, astronomers, and astrophotographers in Oman. The much-anticipated event turned out to be one of the most celebrated ones due to the excitement of the general public. The Oman Astronomical Society (OAS) covered the eclipse live on social media.

“This part of the world does not receive many solar eclipses and on top of it we had the annular pathway going through Oman,” said His Highness SayyidDrFaris al Said, a member of the OAS.

He is an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer who got attracted to astronomy for more than ten years even though his field is different, as he is an assistant professor in marketing at Sultan Qaboos University.

“It was eleven years ago when I first saw a partial lunar eclipse and then on I became keen on Astronomy,” DrFaris said.

The event created excitement on the social media and astrophotographers were ready with the best of cameras and filters to capture the moment, stationed at different strategic locations on the annular path of the solar eclipse.

“I am waiting for the moment where we see the sun as a crescent. We see a crescent moon but this time it will be the sun,” he said speaking to the Observer prior to the celestial event.

And there it was at the peak of the eclipse at 9.38 am on Sunday morning, and DrFaris was ready to capture the moment.

“We have to look after the camera lens just like we care for our eyes. So the right filters have to be used,” he explained.

“Unfortunately solar eclipses have been rare in the last decade in this part of the world. Last year was my first opportunity to capture a solar eclipse and today was my second opportunity to have had a go at the eclipse,” he said after witnessing the annular.

Because of the Covid-19 many observers and astrophotographers chose to capture the moment from their houses to maintain social distancing. But the pandemic did not stop them from watching the much-awaited event.

“Lots of people are excited about science and technology so it is a growing community along with everything the government is pushing for. The youth is really into it and it is quite contagious. There is so much talk about space in the world and Oman is growing its satellite strategy and we now have the Dark Sky Reserves decreed by the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, as we have seen in Jabal Shams, one of Oman’s most pristine skies in that elevation. All of this is going to come together and bring in an understanding of the science at the same time protect the ecosystem and heritage as in the case of Dark Sky Reserve because there are animals and creatures that rely on the night sky.”

June 21 is also the longest day of the year and the official beginning of summer and typically the beginning of the monsoon season in Dhofar.