Astronomy from Saudi Arabia

A short description of the joys and challenges of astronomy from Colin Henshaw in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia

The night sky from Saudi does not look all that much different from that seen in the U.K. except that you have another twenty or so degrees of southern sky. At southern culmination the circumpolar constellations are upside down, and this will apply to more and more of the northern sky as one proceeds south. The Southern Cross, Alpha and Beta Centauri are just visible from Jeddah. In 1996, during the apparition of Comet Hyakutake, I went out into the desert with a German expatriate. On the way back he noticed some bright stars above the southern horizon and he asked me what they were. I said it was the Southern Cross. He was absolutely amazed, never expecting to see it from a northern hemisphere location. From Tabuk the southern horizon cuts the Southern Cross in half. During the summer, excellent views can be obtained of Scorpius and Sagittarius, and the Milky way presents a glorious sight from a dark sky location. Recently I took some long exposure images of the Milky Way star clouds in Sagittarius and Scutum, and also some wide angle images of the Milky Way from Sagittarius to Auriga. Zodiacal Light can also be seen, which is very impressive. However the best skies I have ever had were from Botswana, where I photographed the Zodiacal Light and the Gegenschein. From my home outside Tabuk I have reasonable skies, but light pollution from Tabuk is severe.  

 

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