India to build world’s largest solar telescope

By Betwa Sharma | January 28, 2013, 12:00 AM PST

DELHI — Stargazers in India are hoping to study the sun more closely than has ever been done before.

The Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), the country’s premier astronomical institute, has submitted a proposal to the Indian government for setting up a solar telescope along the Indo-China border. The telescope will be set up by 2017 near Pangong, a saltwater lake in Ladakh.

It will be the largest solar telescope in the world, according to the scientists at the IIA, who have called the project for its construction the National Large Solar Telescope (NLST).

The IIA scientists hope that the construction work for this telescope will begin by the end of this year. “Once the construction of the observatory is complete, it will house a telescope with an aperture of two meters,” said Dipankar Banerjee, a professor at the IIA and a core member of the NLST project.

Aperture refers to the size of the lens at the front end of the telescope. Presently, the largest telescope in India has a lens size of 60 centimeters (24 inches). Telescopes with larger apertures capture more light, and allow more magnification.

The NLST will have the capability to discern objects and particles like sunspots spread 50 kilometers (31 miles) across the sun’s surface. Banerjee explained that existing solar telescopes only distinctly identify two objects on the sun’s surface if the distance of their separation is 70 kilometers (43 miles) and beyond.

The telescope will primarily be used during the day, but it can also be used for nighttime observation of other astronomical objects and events. The world’s largest solar telescope is the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, which is housed in the Kitt Peak National Observatory at Arizona in the United States. The aperture of this telescope is 1.6 meters.

Banerjee explained that the sun, being the closest star to earth, is also the easiest to study. Observing the sun allows astrophysicists to understand processes in other stars.

Read more: India to build world’s largest solar telescope | SmartPlanet.

Home           Top of page