Proposed telescope will double up as planet searching tool

Indian scientists will soon join a growing international community of rese­a­­r­chers looking for su­per-earths outside the solar sy­stem, courtesy a new telescope to be set up by Bangalore-based scientists in the Himalayas.

While the Rs 300-crore National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) will study the sun, the facility can also be used at night to look for planets outside the solar system. The NLST is expected to be ready by 2017.

“The telescope will also be used for other activities like searching for extra solar planets,” S S Hasan, former director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore, which is making the telescope, said at the centenary session of the Indian Science Congress here. 

Ever since the discovery of the first exo-planet way back in 1995, close to 800 exo-planets have been identified by scientists, primarily due to the Kepler space mission and its predecessors.

The NLST will mainly study the sun, to know more about its magnetic field, sun spots and solar activity. When completed, it will be one the world’s largest solar telescopes.

The Indian telescope is most likely to be located near Pangong Tso Lake in Lad­akh—as reported in Deccan Herald in 2008—close to the Sino-Indian border. “The fabrication is expected in 2013. It will take three and a half years to build the telescope and the first light is expected by 2017,” Hasan told Deccan Herald.

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