I went to the 2nd Colloquium on Astronomy in the Middle East in Al Ain, UAE, yesterday and it was excellant. I delivered my paper on astronomy without a telescope, though one professional astronomer did give me a hard time. However, he was like that with most people. He was absolutely gobsmacked by the material I presented, and found it almost inconceivable that someone could spend thirty years making naked-eye estimates of Saturn, or lie flat on his back for eight hours making one observation every two minutes of SX Phoenicis. I told him afterwards, "I really did it," to which he replied "I could never make my students do that. It takes a lot of patience even to make one variable star estimate, let alone 180 of one object in a night or engage in a thirty year project. How on earth did you manage to discover SN1987A?" "With the naked eye!" I replied.
There was a panel discussion on the establishment of a Gulf astronomical society. Delegates were present from Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. There are about five observatories in Saudi now, but all are professionally run, but there is no organisation for amateurs.
by Collin Henshaw