Stargazer’s haven Jabal Shams is now a protected reserve

MUSCAT: Jabal Shams has the highest summit in Oman and it is also where sky enthusiasts, astronomers and photographers head to capture the beauty of the celestial bodies. To the delight of the sky watchers, artificial lights around the area are going to be removed providing even better sightings. The Royal Decree announced last week stated that a nature reserve shall be established in the area of Al Hajar al Gharbi to see the lights of stars in Al Dakhiliyah Governorate with assigned area specified in the Decree. It also includes the largest number of endangered juniper trees.
On Sunday the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) announced with the establishment of starlight reserve, all types of lights will be banned in specified areas of Al Dakhiliyah Governorate.
Apart from encouraging stargazing tourism, the natural reserve will limit light pollution due to the growing use of outdoor lights, the decree said.
Astronomers and environmentalists received the news with delight.
“Increasing use of lights in our daily lives lead to several problems related to environment, economy, health etc. The problem of light pollution has become significant globally especially in the developed countries after ignoring the issue for a long period. Nowadays many countries in the modern world are suffering from the light pollution issue and have started to make great efforts after realizing how massive is the effect of the issue in our daily life,” said Ali Amur al Shibani, a dedicated star gazer and member of Oman Astronomical Society.
Apart from encouraging stargazing tourism, the natural reserve will limit light pollution due to the growing use of outdoor lights, the decree said.
Situated at a height of 25,000 metres above sea level, the reserve will be counted as the highest in the Sultanate that includes the highest summit (Jabal Shams).
It also includes the largest number of endangered juniper trees. Krishna Kumar, an ardent photographer visits Jabal Shams for stargazing trips at least ten times a year, “Summer and winter night skies vary — different set of stars and different part of milky way. Jabal Shams is a popular destination because it has lesser light pollution, topography is different and good for photography, ideal place for camping and has availability of hotels.” Oman Astronomical Society has set up a telescope at Jabal Shams Hotel.