Morocco’s famed Oukaimeden Observatory, which lies 50km south of Marrakech, operates the telescope that made the discovery possible.
Rabat – Thanks to the TRAPPIST-Nord telescope at the Oukaimeden Observatory near Marrakech, astronomers have been able to detect gas molecules in an interstellar comet.
The discovery is seen as historic and groundbreaking as astronomers have never been able to detect this type of material in an interstellar object.
The discovery is being lauded as an important advancement for science as it will now allow scientists to determine what interstellar objects are made of. With this information, scientists will be able to compare our solar system to other systems in the Milky Way galaxy.
The Oukaimeden Observatory was founded in 2007 and was Morocco’s first university astronomical observatory. At present, it is jointly operated by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech and the University of Liege in Belgium.
The observatory has been hosting the Morocco Oukaimeden Sky Survey (MOSS) since 2011. MOSS is composed of a team of international amateur astronomers who are “conducting a survey of small solar system bodies,” according to the MOSS official website.
MOSS has discovered four comets, six near-Earth objects, and designated 4,660 minor planets since its inception.
According to the University of Liege, the TRAPPIST telescope was designed to detect and characterize planets orbiting stars other than our Sun and to study comets and other small bodies of our solar system.
Only two of these small robotic telescopes exist, and one operates from the observatory in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. The other is stationed at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.