Science and Technology

Big eye on sky

| Updated on February 28, 2021

Sky high: The liquid mirror telescope can only see objects that wade into its view

A ₹30-crore, 4-m diameter reflecting telescope is being set up in the pristine Himalayas — at Devasthal, 60 km from Nainital, Uttarakhand. But India is spending only ₹3 crore on this.

The rest of the money for the International Liquid Mirror Telescope is coming from Belgium and Canada, Dipankar Banerjee, Director, Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (AIRES), told Quantum. This international telescope would have come up last year but for the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, AIRES is aiming to inaugurate the telescope by the end of 2021.

A liquid mirror telescope coated with mercury is much cheaper than the conventional ones, Bannerjee said. To compare, another 3.6-m diameter telescope in the same premises cost ₹250 crore to set up.

This telescope is fixed, which means it can observe only those objects that wade into its view. Typical target objects are gamma ray bursts and space debris. The telescope can also observe distant stars, faint stars — of magnitude 25 or 26, which is really faint. The brightness of a star is measured in terms of ‘magnitude’ — the smaller the number, the brighter the star.

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Published on February 28, 2021
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