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Asia's Largest Optical Telescope Becomes Activated in India
Apr 09, 2016

In a major technological advancement for astronomy in the country, Asia's largest and first of its kind optical telescope was unveiled recently at Devasthal near Nainital. During his recent visit to Belgium, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remotely activated the Aryabhatta Research Institute for Observational Sciences (ARIES) telescope along with his Belgium counterpart Charles Michel.

Key Features

  • Any telescope undergoes three phases to become fully operational—Assembly, Integration and Verification.

  • The optical telescope's mirror has a 3.6 metre diameter and it will further research of star structures and magnetic field structures of stars.

  • The 'general purpose' optical telescope with 150 tonnes weight will help in the study and exploration of stars, planets, magnetic field and astronomical debris.

  • The mirror of the 3.6 diameter optical telescope has been entirely 'coated' in by the scientists and technicians of ARIES in the coating facility which became operational in January 2015.

  • The aluminum coating of the mirror is the most vital aspect as the accuracy should be flawless up to nanometers.

  • The clarity and area of observation increases in the proportion of diameter hence more accuracy.

  • Coating plant, enclosure and structure of the telescope were designed and manufactured in the country whereas lens was made in Belgium.

  • Mechanical, electrical and optical procedures for setting up the telescope has been completed.

  • The ARIES telescope has been a joint international effort between Indian, Russian and Belgian scientists.

  • In March 2007 ARIES and Belgian company Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems (AMOS) entered a contract for design, manufacture, integration, testing, supply and installation of the telescope.

  • ARIES and AMOS collaborated to produce this infrared steerable optical telescope which is the first of its kind in the whole of Asia.

  • Belgium funded 7 per cent of the project whose total cost is more than Rs. 120 crore. This is a big thing because it is a product of Indo-Belgian collaboration.

  • The activation of this telescope is a major achievement for astronomers of the country.

  • The telescope is located at a height of 2,500 metres and the site was chosen for getting a clear view of the sky.

  • Currently, the Vainu Bappu observatory in Kavalur, Tamil Nadu is home to Asia's largest optical telescope.

  • The telescope at Devasthal will provide a great tool to advance our astronomy research. Indian astronomers have long felt the need to go beyond the 2 metre reflector size and the ARIES project has been long in the making.

  • Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) has completed the 'engineering verification' of Asia's largest 'general purpose' optical telescope in Devsthal, 60 km from Nainital.

  • ‘Scientific verification' of the equipment will start paving the way towards being fully operational. It is expected to go fully operational within next 3-4 months.

  • The unique location of ARIES having modern astronomical facilities lying between the Canary Islands and Eastern Australia makes its role crucial in observations, which are impossible from elsewhere.

  • Many other Indian firms like Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune and Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru also contributed in Rs 150 crore project.

  • The 10 storey building which houses the telescope is specifically designed and equipped with air and temperature control for smooth function of the telescopes.

  • ARIES had already installed a telescope of 1.3 meter diameter in the building in 2010.

  • The facility also has four special cranes to help in the movement of the telescope which can moves as slow as 'few millimeter' per second.

The second largest 'general purpose' optical telescope is also installed in India in Kavalur by Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru. In 'general purpose' telescopes, observations of astronomical events can be made by moving them while in 'specific purpose' telescopes observations depend on the planetary movement of earth. The largest specific purpose telescope in Asia is in China with 4 metre diameter.


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