Flag-map_of_EthiopiaLast  Friday, Ethiopia unveiled the first phase of a space exploration programme, which includes East Africa’s largest observatory designed to promote astronomy research in the region.

The optical astronomical telescope is mainly intended for astronomy and astrophysics observation research,” said o.

Observatory director Solomon Belay said The observatory, which was formally opened on Saturday, boasts two telescopes, each one metre (over three feet) wide, to see “extra planets, different types of stars, the Milky Way, and deep galaxies.”

Ethiopian-Saudi business tycoon Mohammed Alamoudi funded the 3.4 million dollar (2.5 million euro) observatory which is  run by the Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS).

It is 3,200 metres (10,500 feet) above sea level in the lush Entoto mountains on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, which is an ideal location because of its minimal cloud cover, moderate winds and low humidity, experts said.

The Ethiopian government is set to launch a space policy in coming years.

The ESSS is now looking to open a second observatory, 4,200 metres (13,800 feet) above sea level in the mountainous northern town of Lalibela, also the site of the largest cluster of Ethiopia’s ancient rock-hewn churches.

Photographs from the ESSS show scientists with testing equipment looking for the best site to put the next telescope on the green and remote peaks, as local villagers wrapped in traditional white blankets watch on curiously, sitting outside their thatch hut homes.

The country will also launch its first satellite in the next three years, ESSS said, to study meteorology and boost telecommunications.

Ethiopia is not the first African nation to look to the skies; South Africa has its own National Space Agency, and in 2009 the African Union announced plans to establish The African Space Agency.

Source: Zee News