The Egyptian Large Optical Telescope (ELOT) and an astronomical observatory will be established in Upper Egypt within the next 10 years, as part of a plan to upgrade space research and studies in Egypt.
ELOT is planned to be the biggest telescope in the Arab region, the Middle East and the whole Mediterranean Basin – three times bigger than the Kottamia observatory telescope, with a 6.5–meter-wide mirror. Infrared will be used to monitor celestial bodies and visible rays in astronomical observations. The construction of ELOT is scheduled to be finished in 10 years with expected costs of LE 1 billion ($56.5 million).
Egypt originally chose one of the mountain peaks in Saint Catherine, a city in the South Sinai governorate, as the most suitable site for establishing ELOT. However, a delegation from the National Institute for Astronomical Research conducted observations on the planned site and found that it will not be suitable to establish the telescope on this particular mountain.
The astronomical researchers have found that the summit of Saint Catherine Mountain suffers from an obvious and broad scattering of light from the city itself, in addition to the floodlights that surround the city to secure the Monastery of Saint Catherine, which obscures the vision.
The delegation also monitored the cities of Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab and Tur Sinai, which is the capital of South Sinai governorate, and found that the lights will obscure a clear vision. Thus, they are looking for other sites in South Sinai suitable for building the new astronomical observatory, away from the lights of the cities.
In order to build a telescope with the highest advanced technology, Egypt coordinated with many countries, such as China, Japan, Italy, France, the United States and Germany.
Earlier, the Egyptian Parliament voted on a law to establish an Egyptian space agency. The agency would be based in Cairo and may have branches throughout Egypt. It aims to transfer, localize and develop space science and technology to build and launch satellites from Egyptian territory, and to serve the country’s strategy in areas of development and national security.