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A Unique Liquid-Mirror Telescope sees first light in the Indian Himalayas

  • Published
    3rd Jun, 2022
Context

India has commissioned a unique liquid-mirror telescope atop a mountain in the Himalayan region that will keep a watch on the skies to identify transient or variable objects.

About

About International Liquid-Mirror Telescope (ILMT):

  • The telescope, commissioned at Devasthal, a hill in Uttarakhand.
  • It is located at an altitude of 2450 metres at the Devasthal Observatory campus of Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES).
  • ARIES is an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India in Nainital district, Uttarakhand.
  • It is the first liquid mirror telescope in the country and the largest in Asia.
  • It will help in surveying the sky making it possible to observe several galaxies and other astronomical sources just by staring at the strip of sky that passes overhead.
  • The unique telescope will monitor the sky for transitory or variable objects such as supernovae, gravitational lenses, space debris, and asteroids.
  • It is built by astronomers from India, Belgium and Canada.
  • The novel instrument employs a 4-meter-diameter rotating mirror made up of a thin film of liquid mercury to collect and focus light.
  • The telescope was designed and built at the Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems Corporation and the Centre Spatial de Liege, Belgium.
  • The major instrumentation funding was jointly provided by Canada and Belgium while India will be responsible for the operations and upkeep of the telescope.
  • The ILMT will operate every night for five years and carry out daily imaging except between June and August monsoon months, a precaution to protect the instruments from humid conditions.

How it works?

  • The scientists from the three countries spun a pool of mercury which is a reflective liquid, so that the surface curved into a parabolic shape which is ideal for focusing light.
  • A thin transparent film of mylar protects the mercury from wind.
  • The reflected light passes through a sophisticated multi-lens optical corrector that produces sharp images over a wide field of view.
  • A large-format electronic camera located at the focus records the images. 
  • The technology of liquid mirror (LM) telescope is relatively simple. ?Three components ?are required:
    • ?A ?dish ?containing ?a ?reflecting ?liquid ?metal ?(essentially ?mercury),
    • ?An ?air ?bearing ?on which ?the ?LM ?sits, and
    • ?A drive system.

What is Mylar?

  • Mylar, also known as BoPET (Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate) is a polyester film made from stretched polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
  • It is used for its high tensile strength, chemical and dimensional stability, transparency, reflectivity, gas and aroma barrier properties, and electrical insulation.

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