India in 5-nation team to construct giant telescope

11 Oct 2014


India has joined a consortium of five countries, which also include the US, Canada, Japan and China, to construct an ambitious 30-metre next-generation telescope. Construction of the telescope, being built at an estimated cost of $1.47 billion, started in Hawaii this week.

The giant telescope will provide astronomers with unparalleled power to observe the intricacies of the universe from the Earth, enabling them to answer some of the most fundamental questions in modern science.

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Project, at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, is scheduled to be completed by 2020.

India is a significant partner in the ambitious international project and the union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, last month, given its approval for India's participation in the Rs1,299.8-crore project from 2014 to 2023.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) will be participating in the project for India.

India will be a 10 per cent partner in the project with 70 per cent of its contributions ''in kind'', which translate into 25 to 30 observing nights on the telescope for Indian scientists per year.

The TMT will enable scientists to study fainter objects far away from us, which will give information about early stages of the evolution of the Universe.

It will also give finer details of not-so-far-away objects such as undiscovered planets and other objects in the Solar system and planets around other stars.

This partnership will also enhance India's technological capabilities in high-technology areas such as primary mirror segment figuring and polishing, mirror support system and edge sensor assembly and testing, software for observatory controls, data analysis pipelines, adaptive optics techniques.

The TMT will be one of the largest optical-infrared telescopes to come up in the next decade. Its 30-meter diameter primary mirror will consist of 492 segments of 1.44 meter diameter each.

These mirror segments will be cleverly positioned relative to each other through sophisticated sensors, actuators and control systems, so that the entire assembly behaves like a single monolithic mirror.

Indian research would be led by Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) Bangalore, with the help of Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune.


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