RUMSKY Stories

To most people the day ends with the setting of the sun, for stargazers it is just the beginning. So high above us and so far away these points of light have the power to be so much more.

Our attraction to the stars is not a new thing.  They have attracted the eyes of our ancestors and theirs before them.  Not only did they attract their eyes but they also their imaginations. No much has changed.  Each of us looks towards the night sky and sees what the universe has to offer.  Some look to the sky and see their horoscopes,  some look to see the science of the stars, while some look for an explanation of the universe.  We all see what we want to see, that is our nature.

As a star guide my job is not just to point out different things in the sky, it is an introduction into a world that we have mainly forgotten.  We spend our lives running from minute to minute, task to task, and when the day ends we just want to sit down on the couch and watch tv with some snacks.  When our guests arrive I want to give them a chance to see the night sky as I see it, and feel about it the way I feel about it. Basically, I want to introduce them to a universe that has become my life.

Generally I first see our guests when they walk into my lecture hall.  Most people will think that a lecture is the last thing they want when having a good time.  For me it is an important part of the journey. It allows me to set the stage for what is to come. A very brief talk about the night sky and our telescopes gives our guests a basis for what will come when we are in the dark later. It is also a chance to actually see our guests since obviously it will be hard for me to see them in the dark. 🙂

Most people are not used to being in the darkness of the night, but this where we as stargazers live.  The experience of our guests is twofold, naked eye viewing and the telescopes.  In the naked eye section we introduce them to the way we look at the sky, and some of the interesting things about it.  To see the Earth’s rotation for their own eyes is a truly wonderful thing. It gives us the opportunity to see for ourselves the wonder of all that it is around us. This naked eye experience is one of the ways we are able to let our guests get a glimpse of how we feel about the night sky, it’s wonders and indirectly why we love it.

Moving on to the telescopes is one of the main highlights of the evening.  The ability to see things that are not visible to the naked eye is just a marvel that is hard to describe.  What we show our guests is really dependent on what we feel like each night.  Lets be honest, we all have our preferences, this is definitely carried in what objects we choose to look at. One of our pleasures is hearing how our guests react to what they are seeing.  For most people this is the first time that they are seeing the universe directly with their own eyes (technically it is one eye 🙂 ). We have all seen pictures and video of what is beyond our atmosphere, but seeing it for ourselves is an amazing experience.

We spend a big portion of our lives looking down at our phones and computers, but we as star guides have the great pleasure of being able to lift our guest’s eyes to the wonders and beauty that is  the night sky.

I will end end here with a common wish to everyone who wants to look at the beauty of the night sky by saying:

“Clear Skies”
Fakhri Alalami

My then 16 year old daughter, Leen,  gazed at the night sky of an isolated desert  in Wadi Rum. It was the first time she had been there, tears of amazement  and astonishment  rolled down her cheeks as I watched her reaction to the beautiful sky that revealed the hidden stars. It felt surreal that such a place can exist. This triggered my journey into astronomy.

Wadi Rum is a magnificent desert in  southern Jordan. It competes with Petra; the Nabatean Kingdom, tourists’ favourite destination in Jordan.  Wadi Rum is a unforgettable experience, a place to escape from your everyday city life.

It is a bundle of different experiences. Sand dunes engulfing high-rise rocky mountains forming the most beautiful canyons on earth, a rich heritage from prehistoric nomads, home of  Nabateans and the struggle with the Ottoman Empire in the times of Lawrence of Arabia and his interactions with the Bedouins of Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is the home of award-winning movies like The Martian, Lawrence of Arabia, and Aladdin.

One hour after sunset, thousands of sky objects emerge to the naked eye. With our Bortle 2 Sky (A  scale from 1-9 to measure night sky darkness) you will see objects that you can never see in urban areas. Planets, Stars, clusters and nebulae. Thousands of  celestial objects invisible to the naked eye, that we can make you see!

I felt it is a place everyone should know about and experience. I started my long journey of research on Astronomy. I have to admit , I started out not knowing the difference between a planet and a star. I read hundreds of  Astronomy books,  and got the chance to speak  to remarkable people in the field (Astrophysicist Dr. Hanna Sabat, Astrophotographer Fakhri Alalami who is now leading the astronomy team in RumSky).  I even travelled to Sutherland South Africa to learn from a similar project founded by Mr. Jurg Wagner who was extremely helpful in the set up of RumSky.

By end of the same year and with the help of many; we started RumSky with only  two telescopes and two astronomy guides, now we have five telescopes and modern facility. We trained astronomy guides and spread our mission widely. Wadi Rum became the destination for stargazing for both locals and travelers worldwide. Rumsky became the place to connect with the outer universe…

Fayez Alkhlaifat