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The Oukaimeden Observatory: A Cradle of Scientific Discoveries

Culture
31/1/2021
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It is thanks to the Morocco Oukaimeden Sky Survey that this first university astronomical observatory in Morocco has been ranked among the top 10 worldwide every year since its foundation in 2007.

It is only with the contribution of Moroccan scientists from this observatory, which owns the TRAPPIST-North telescope, that NASA will announce on 22 February 2017 the discovery of 7 exoplanets, 3 of which are in the habitable zone of the discovered system.

Trappist-1, a system with seven potentially habitable planets.
Thanks to NASA's Spitzer satellite and the dozens of observatories involved, we have been able to determine the existence of seven planets. - Zouhair Benkhaldoun, director of the observatory.

This is due not only to our ingenious Moroccans, but also to the mountains and sites suitable for astronomical observing that Morocco offers us, from Rabat to Erg Chebbi (Sahara). This has enabled us to observe many astronomical phenomena, including meteor showers, shooting stars, etc.

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This exoplanet discovery project started 4 years ago. Zouhair Benkhaldoun, president of the observatory, explains it in this video.

The Moroccan research team wanted to name one of the exoplanets and its parent star. This request was granted, and they are now called Isli and Tislit in reference to the lakes bearing the same names and meaning fiancé and fiancée, alluding to the Amazigh legend surrounding them.

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The Legend of Isli and Tislit.

In addition to the geological aspects, the Isli and Tislit lakes also symbolise romance in Moroccan Berber culture. This legend is inspired by the story of two lovers from the Aït Ibrahim and Aït Yazza tribes, respectively.

Once upon a time, in the heart of the Atlas Mountains, there was a stunningly beautiful young girl named Tislit. She decided to walk the family's sheep and met a young shepherd. They talked and laughed endlessly, but everything changed when they discovered that their tribes were sworn enemies; Isli was from the Ait Yazza tribe and Tislit was from the Aït Brahim tribe. But their love was so intense that it did not prevent them from meeting. One day, Tislit revealed her love for Isla to the only person she could trust, her mother. Later that day, in a nearby village, Isli explained to her father that he wanted to ask Isli, a girl from another tribe, to marry him. But neither parent agreed to this relationship, which would lead to war and devastation.

Heartbroken, Isli and Tislit met for the last time behind the hills, and it was there that the young lovers exchanged vows and finally drowned to be spared a life apart. Their flow of tears is said to have created two lakes (Isli and Tislit) in the Moroccan High Atlas.

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Atlas dark sky Morocco, one of the projects of the Oukaimeden Observatory.

The Oukaimeden Observatory, now known for its scientific achievements and its numerous astronomical discoveries, is indeed the bearer of this major citizen project: the creation of a starry sky reserve in the Toubkal National Park. This project, known as "Atlas Dark Sky Morocco" (ADSM), is unique in its kind at the national and international level.

An international dark sky reserve is an area of exceptional dark sky quality that is subject to scientific, educational, cultural or natural conservation. The "Atlas Dark Sky Morocco" International Dark Sky Reserve will be the first protected area in North Africa and the largest in the world in terms of surface area (about 40,000 square kilometres).

Educational workshops are offered to students and residents of the Dark Sky Reserve to raise awareness of the importance of this project.

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