What has happened?
- In early 2022, India’s first liquid-mirror telescope, which will observe asteroids, supernovae, space debris and all other celestial objects from an altitude of 2,450 metres in the Himalayas,
- Saw its first light as it peered into the zenith from the Devasthal observatory in Uttarakhand.
- Having entered the commissioning phase, it became the world’s first liquid-mirror telescope to be commissioned for astronomy.
Where it has been setup?
- The International Liquid-Mirror Telescope (ILMT) has been set up at the Devasthal Observatory campus owned by Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES),
- Nainital in Uttarakhand.
- Located at 2,450 metres above mean sea level, there are two firsts with this — it’s the only one to have been developed for astronomy research and is also the only one of its kind to be operational anywhere in the world.
- The handful of liquid-telescopes that were previously built either tracked satellites or were deployed for military purposes.
- ILMT will be the third telescope facility to come up at Devasthal — one of the world’s pristine sites for obtaining astronomical observations.
- With ILMT set to commence full-scale scientific operations in October this year, it will work along with the 3.6-metre Devasthal Optical Telescope (DOT), the largest telescopes operating in India.
- Also operating at the location is the 1.3-metre Devasthal Fast Optical Telescope (DFOT) inaugurated in 2010.
How liquid-mirror telescope is different?
- A conventional telescope is steered to point towards the celestial source of interest in the sky for observations.
- The liquid-mirror telescopes, on the other hand, are stationary telescopes that image a strip of the sky which is at the zenith at a given point of time in the night.
- In other words, a liquid-mirror telescope will survey and capture any and all possible celestial objects — from stars, galaxies, supernovae explosions, asteroids to space debris.
- Conventional telescopes have highly polished glass mirrors — either single or a combination of curved ones — that are steered in a controlled fashion to focus onto the targeted celestial object on specific nights.
- The light is then reflected to create images.
- As opposed to this, as is evident by the name, the liquid-telescope is made up of mirrors with a reflective liquid, in this case, mercury metal which has a high light-reflecting capacity.
- About 50 litres (equal to 700kgs) of mercury filled into a container will be rotated at a fixed constant speed along the vertical axis of the ILMT.
- During this process, the mercury will spread as a thin layer in the container forming a paraboloid-shaped reflecting surface which will now act as the mirror.
- Such a surface is ideal to collect and focus light.
- The mirror has a diameter of 4 metre.
- Another difference between the two is their operational time.
- While conventional telescopes observe specific stellar sources for fixed hours as per the study requirement and time allotted by the respective telescope time allotment committee,
- ILMT will capture the sky’s images on all nights — between two successive twilights — for the next five years starting October 2022.
- For protecting it from moisture during monsoon, the ILMT will remain shut for operations between June and August.
- India, Belgium, Canada, Poland and Uzbekistan are the main countries who have collaborated to set up the ILMT.
- The telescope was designed and built at the Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems Corporation and the Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium.
- The funding, estimated to range between Rs 30 to Rs 40 crore, was jointly provided by Canada and Belgium.
- The operations and up-keep of this telescope is to be done by India.
How will it be hepful?
- It is estimated that the ILMT is capable of generating 10-15 GB/night.
- With ILMT set for operations every night during nine months a year for the next five years starting October 2022, there will be data generated in gigantic volumes.
- According to international norms, the data generated by a new telescope facility will be cleaned, maintained and archived at either of the host/participating institutes, in this case, the AIRES.
- The norms also mandate that for an initial stipulated period, the data will be open only for researchers from these participating institutes.
- At a later stage, the data will be accessible to all global scientific communities.
- In order to sieve, process and analyse the large datasets, the ILMT will deploy the latest computational tools, like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and big data analytics.
- Another advantage for having such large data sets is that the select data can be culled out as base data,
- Which can then be followed-up for further focused studies using spectrographs, near-Infrared spectrograph mounted on the in-house DOT.
Q) Who among the following was the main contributor in building and improvising Telescopes?