Drawing inspiration from ancestral space heroines to unleash our potential today
The Arabic heritage is omnipresent in the stars. Two thirds of the star names are of Arabic origin and some constellations, powerful female figures, such as Al-ʻIjliyyah, prefigure extraordinary adventure of the pioneers of space. When one thinks of the contribution of Arab scholars to the scientific development, two areas immediately come to mind: mathematics and astronomy. As far as astronomy is concerned, it is enough to note that the nomenclature of the terms used is particularly rich in appellations coming from Islam. Inspired by the magnificent collection from the Louvre Aby Dhabi: astrolabes, saphea, celestial globes, and astrological treatises, we explore the relations that the Arab and Islamic world have with the sky and stars, and celebrates the rich culture and achievements of the region in space exploration. Throughout history, Arab astronomers developed a large number of instruments to measure and understand the sky and to guide our lives on Earth. One of the most famous and sophisticated is the astrolabe, which was remarkably improved by a Muslim female astronomer, Mariam al-Asṭurlābiyya, in the tenth century. Mariam’s contribution to astronomy continues to have positive impacts to date for modern techniques such as GPS and other navigation equipment. Her long-neglected achievenments were finally recognized in 1990, when the main-belt asteroid, 7060 Al-ʻIjliyyah, was named after her. Now, in the 21th century, Arab and Muslim astronauts, astronomers and space researchers continue to shine in the space sector. The United Arab Emirates is becoming a model for Arab-Islamic region for space exploration, in which women are fully participating – women comprise 34% of the Emirates Mars Mission and 80% of its science team. The UAE Space Agency is led by a woman – H.E. Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology. Soon an Emirati female astranaunt will also break through the clouds and reach the stars.