India to partner in advance telescope project

India to partner in advance telescope project

India plans to chip in Rs 760 crore towards building a mega telescope, which will be used by astronomers from all over the world to find answers to many underlying mysteries of the universe.

Known as Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), it will be the world's most advanced ground-based observatory, to be located below the summit of Mauna Kea peak in Hawaii. If funds flow in time, the telescope may see the first light by 2021.

India, the USA, Canada, Japan and China are sharing the cost for this Rs 7,600 crore ($1.4 billion) project, which will be open to the international community. “TMT was approved in the 12th plan,” K Kasturirangan, member Planning Commission, told Deccan Herald. The union cabinet is yet to approve the financial package.

While India and China each were contributing close to 10 per cent of the project cost, the contribution from the US, China and Japan is upwards of 20 per cent each.

“We plan to begin the construction in 2014 and want to ink formal agreements with Indian government this year,” Edward Stone, a professor of physics at California Institute of Technology and vice chair of TMT board said here after the TMT board meeting.

Close to 70 per cent of Indian contribution will be in kind. This means India will supply more than 3,000 edge sensors, 492 segment support assembly and 1,476 actuators, said Sirajul Hasan, former director of Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore,  the nodal Indian institute for the TMT project.

The primary mirror at the core of the telescope is a gigantic 30 metres in size. Since it is difficult to make and transport a 30-mt single piece mirror, telescope designers split the mirror into 492 hexagonal segments, each 1.44 metres in size. Combined together, they will act as a 30-mt mirror for the telescope.

“India will make segments 115 to 150,” Hasan said. A Pondicherry-based firm General Optics Asia and Larsen and Toubro have been roped in to design mirror segments and other components.

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