MAKKAH: Saudis have expressed pride and joy after it emerged that a citizen of the Kingdom, Dr. Yaseen Al-Mleaky was included in a team of researchers who helped discover seven new planets.
The planets, the discovery of which was announced by NASA, are similar to Earth in size and could have liquid water and maybe life, by extension, on the surface.
Al-Mleaky, who is president of the center for astronomy and space science in the Clock Tower in Makkah, said: “The center has 13 stations around the world, seven are international, five are local and one is located in the Clock Tower in Makkah”.
The Saudi researcher, who is also member of the teaching faculty in the Astronomy Department in King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, added: “The observatory in Chile contributed to the monitoring of this star and planets that revolve around it”.
Saudis were pleased with this achievement and expressed their joy on Twitter. “I suggest that students should view Dr. Yaseen Al-Mleaky’s interview on Al-Arabiya to see a live role model and live with new discoveries”, wrote Naser Al-Hiyani.
Another Twitter user said Al-Mleiky’s participation in the research team is a source of pride for all young people in the Gulf.
This cluster of planets is less than 40 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius, according to NASA and the Belgian-led research team who announced the discovery Wednesday.
The planets circle tightly around a dim dwarf star called Trappist-1, barely the size of Jupiter. Three are in the so-called habitable zone, the area around a star where water and, possibly life, might exist. The others are right on the doorstep.
“We made a giant leap forward, and this discovery will enable us to answer the question that preoccupied a lot of philosophers throughout history, and the question we all ask, which is are we alone in this universe?” said associate administrator of NASA, Thomas Zurbuchen.
“Three of the seven planets could be suitable for life, and they might contain liquid water, which gives them vital weather conditions to develop biological life,” Zurbuchen added. Yaseen Al-Mleaky’s participation in this discovery isn’t the first Saudi contribution to space research. He was preceded by Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz who was the first Arab Muslim astronaut. Prince Sultan participated in the Space Shuttle Discovery trip in 1985, in the “STS-51-G” mission.
(Additional input from The Associated Press and Reuters)