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India to Create Software for World's Largest Telescope
Jan 08, 2015

Union Ministry for Science and Technology signed a multilateral agreement admitting India‘s participation in the development of the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii.  This project was rapidly cleared by the Union Cabinet and India has agreed to spend Rs. 1299.8 crores over the next decade for this project. Besides learning about the universe, India will gain the technology to manufacture fine aspherical mirror segments from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Highlights of the Project

  • This technology will form the basis of the next generation of spy satellites.
  • TMT will contain 492 hexagonal mirror segments of 82 different kinds.
  • These will behave like a single mirror with an aperture of 30 metre diameter.
  • This large collecting area of 650 square metres is thrice as sensitive as the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • The telescope is expected to be completed by 2024.
  • Institutions from the United States of America, Canada, Japan and China are also participating in the construction of the world’s largest telescope on Mount Mauna Kea.
  • This telescope, 4207 metres above sea level, may cost more than 1.47 billion dollars.
  • Through it scientists hope to find answers to fundamental questions about the universe.

India’s Role in the Project

  • India’s role will primarily be to create the control systems and software that keep the mirrors aligned and collects the data.
  • The control system is an intricate process involving edge sensors—that detect the mutual displacement of mirrors, actuators to correct their alignment, and the segment support assembly.
  • These will be manufactured by General Optics (Asia) in Puducherry, Avasarala Technolgies and Godrej in Bengaluru respectively.
  • India will also manufacture 100 aspherical mirror segments in Hoskote, near Bengaluru.
  • These thin glass slabs made in Japan have minimal expansion when heated.
  • A protective layer and a reflective coating will be applied using technology from Caltech.
  • Segmented mirrors are the next generation in telescope technology and gaining this expertise is a huge leap for India.
  • India’s Departments of Science and Technology and Atomic Energy are funding the project in which IIA, Bangalore, Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune will participate.

  • Through this telescope scientists hope to find answers to fundamental questions about the universe. These include, how and when the first galaxies were formed, does life exist outside the Earth, the constitution of black holes and the nature of the universe’s acceleration. 
 


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