After almost five years, the Defence Ministry has finally approved setting up of the National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) at a site close to the India-China border in Ladakh.
Besides studying the intricacies of solar dynamics and magnetism, the NLST may also be used in the night to search for extra-solar planets.
A tiny village named Merak near Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh was the preferred site for the NLST, which was thought of as one of the mega-science facilities to be built in India. But the project hit a stonewall when the Ministry of Defence objected to it citing proximity to the Sino-Indian border.
“Almost eight weeks ago, the permission finally came from the Defence Ministry for the Merak site. We will now revise the proposal because of cost enhancement,” sources in the department of Science and Technology told DH.
The 2-metre class telescope was to cost about Rs 300 crore and was to be ready by 2017. Because of the five-year delay in getting the permission, both cost and completion schedule would have to be reworked.
Earlier this month, a panel of law-makers asked the department of Science and Technology to move fast on the NLST and advised the Finance Ministry to arrange for necessary funding. The University of Hamburg was thought of as one of the partners, specifically for instrumentation.
The NLST’s main task would be studying 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.
Two other large solar telescopes are being created by the USA and Spain. China too has proposed to build a giant one for researching on solar activities. The location of the telescope needs to provide a large number of clear hours for making observations with very good seeing and transparency.