India's largest telescope to come up near Nainital

In September, mirrors for the 3.6-mt telescope were sent from a factory in Moscow to a Belgian company, where they are undergoing a series of tests following which they would be shipped for India.

Installing the telescope at its location in Devasthal – 50 km from Nainital town – would take another five-six months.

“The first light is expected by 2012 end or 2013 beginning. The new telescope would be able to see fainter stars and galaxies which none of the existing Indian telescopes can see,” Ram Sagar, director of Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences in Nainital told Deccan Herald.

The Rs 140-crore Devasthal Optical Telescope will be more powerful than Pune-based Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics’s optical telescope at Girwali near Pune; Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics’s telescope at Hanle in Leh and Veinu-Bappu observatory in Tamil Nadu, which incidentally was also India’s first optical telescope, spawning a generation of astronomers.

The cost of Devasthal telescope alone was about Rs 120 crore, out of which Belgium government was sharing about Rs 15 crore (Two million Euro), Sagar said.

Located at an altitude of 2,540 metres, the site, Sagar claimed, was as good as some of the world’s best sites. In partnership with other telescopes, it will offer astronomers a chance of watching an object continuously for 24 hours.

Since the site is located between Canary Islands and Eastern Australia, observations which are not possible in Canary Islands or Australia due to daylight can be obtained from Devasthal.

Devasthal telescope will also act as a complimentary platform to Indian Space Research Organisation’s Astrosat satellite, scheduled to be launched in 2012. Astrosat will be India’s first dedicated astronomy payload.

“We will see the objects, which Astrosat would watch in X-ray, ultra-violet and radio wave lengths from the ground in the optical range,” Sagar said.

The telescope will use a new support technology known as Active Mirror Support for operating the telescope online even when it is being used for observations.
It will also have a high-resolution spectrograph, a low-resolution spectroscopic camera and an infra-red camera for data capturing which would make night-watch more useful for the astronomers.

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