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25 December 2012

Morocco: Astronomy Club Toutatis visit Morocco


December 2012, Marrakesh, Morocco.

For the 2 years anniversary of the foundation of our astronomy club Toutatis we flew to Morocco. Our plans where to visit the Observatory and cultural center of Marrakesh and the only private observatory of north Africa, the Sahara sky hotel in the Sahara desert.

We flew into Marrakesh where we met Mr. Mohamed Ali Hafili. Ali as he called him self is a member of the Astronomy club 3AM of Marrakesh founded in 1999 by Mr. Zouhair Benkhaldoun, professor of astrophysics and director of the Observatory Universitaire Cady Ayyad "OUCA" of Oukaimeden. We where curious about the astronomy there and wanted to see what kind of events and observations the Marroqui astronomers where doing.

As Ali invited us to visit the Observatory and cultural center of Marrakesh, he explained us the concept behind this fabulous center of knowledge that it's owner Mr. Omar Hila should be very proud of. The Observatory and cultural center of Marrakesh, led by director Phillippe Baracco is a place to see art galleries, exhibitions on fossils and rocks found in Morocco (space rocks too) and astronomy observations and events. Also the center can be adapted to all kinds of events from music concerts to alternative art galleries and more. The conference room is a delight and the telescope found on the roof terrace is sublime.
The 600mm Richtey Chrétien telescope (the Valmeca T600) is fully remote controlled and is very user friendly. Attached to the telescope is a CCD camera where Ali can take pictures of the night sky and do some serious astronomy. But as Ali says, the hours he puts on organising events and observations in the astronomy club 3AM and the public showings at the cultural center shortens his time for astrophotography and science data gathering.
He almost admit that working a full time job in astronomy with the public is taking all his time and he finds it hard to dedicate his efforts on his passion of astronomy. Never the less, Ali had a way to explain to us the universe of astronomy in Morocco and inspire us with his contagious passion for space and astronomy.

Conference room @ Observatory and cultural center of Marrakesh
The Observatory and cultural center is open to the public on observation nights and offers great opportunities to see and try out the telescope says Ali Hafili. The main purpose of these observation nights is to give the public a taste of a large telescope and see wonderful things in the night sky. For the astronomy club 3AM, Ali is continuing on organising great events and observation nights with it's members. Thank you so much Ali for your hospitality and hope we can organise joint events with us here in Finland to you in Morocco.

Please visit 3AM astronomy club Marrakesh on their facebook page HERE
Please visit Observatory and cultural center of Marrakesh homepage HERE
Please see the specs of the Valmeca T600 HERE 
First picture caption: From left to right: Uolevi Leppäkoski, Mohamed Ali Hafili and Me with the T600 telescope @ the Observatory.

Continue to read on club's Moroccan astronomy trip HERE