India is rapidly advancing in the field of space technology and has become among the most powerful space giants. This was not an overnight process. Scientists and engineers have been working on these projects from quite a long time. This process has given birth to various astronomical observatories across the Indian sub-continent. These observatories are the wonders of science and technology with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. In this article, I will be talking about 10 topmost world-class observatories of India.
1. High Altitude Gamma Ray Observatory (HAGAR)
It is located in Hanle, Ladakh (32 47′ 46″ N). The HAGAR is an Astronomical Cerenkov Experiment. It has 7 telescopes in a circular pattern whose diameter is 50m. Each of the satellites has 7 mirrors of a total area of 4.4 sq. meters, thus the total light gathering area of 7 telescopes is 31 sq. meters. The HAGAR is officially operated by TIFR and IIR. The prime targets include Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs) and Gamma Ray pulsar
2. Himalayan Chandra Observatory
Just neighboring to the HAGAR telescopes, the Himalayan Chandra Observatory is also located in Hanle, Ladakh. Popularly it is also called the Indian Astronomical Observatory. It has a 2m telescope mirror which can take both Optical as well as Infrared images. It is operated by Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru and remotely operated by a satellite communication link from the Centre for Research & Education in Science & Technology (CREST), Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Hosakote, about 35 km northeast of Bengaluru.
3. Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Services (ARIES)
ARIES is located in Devasthal, Nainital (29.3612° N, 79.6841° E). It has 2 telescopes operated in joint efforts between Belgium, Russia, and India. But, the majority of the expenses for this project is paid by India. It is one of the biggest telescopes in Asia with a diameter of 3.6 m on the main. The other telescope has a diameter of 1.3 m. The value of this project is approximately INR 120 crores.
4. Udaipur Solar Observatory
This Observatory is located on a man-made island in Fateh Sagar Lake, Udaipur (24.6014° N, 73.6742° E). It has a 50 cm telescope and the lake provides a reduction in air turbulence by absorbing the heat. It is operated by the Physical Research Lab, Ahmedabad for Department of Space, Govt. of India.
5. Mount Abu InfraRed Observatory (MIRO)
Located near Mount Abu, beside Guru Shikhar, Rajasthan MIRO has 3 telescopes. With diameters 1.2 m used as an IR telescope, 50 cm used for observing small bodies like a comet and 1 m used for tracking space junks. The low amount of precipitable water vapor near Guru Shikhar makes it a good place for IR telescopic observations. It also has its own cooling system using liquid nitrogen to keep the instruments cool. It is operated under the Physical Research Laboratory, a unit of Department of Space, Govt. of India.
6. Vainu Bappu Observatory
Located in Vellore, Tamil Nadu (12.9165° N, 79.1325° E), Vainu Bappu Observatory has 3 telescopes. The largest is a 1.2 m diameter. The other two are a 1 m Zeiss made telescope and a 1.3 m telescope. Mr. Vainu Bappu expired before the construction of the observatory could be finished, the observatory was named in his honor. The telescope at this observatory is powerful enough to resolve a 25 paisa coin (currently not in use as a currency) from a distance of about 40 km. The observatory is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.
7. GRAPES – 3
The Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV Energies phase-3 (GRAPES-3) experiment lab is located in Ooty (11.4064° N, 76.6932° E). It is started as a collaboration of the Indian TATA Institute of Fundamental Research and Japanese Osaka City University and now also include Japanese Nagoya Women’s University. It has the world’s largest muon telescope, muons are unstable and short-lived particles produced when cosmic rays hit the earth. At present, GRAPES-3 array is the highest density conventional EAS array in the world, and also, this experiment associated with a huge 560 m2 area tracking muon detector, is also the largest area tracking detector anywhere.
8. Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope
Located in Narayangaon, 80 km from Pune (19.1229° N, 73.9771° E) it consists of 30 radio telescopes each of 45 m diameter. The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope is one of the most sensitive radio telescopes on earth. One of the aims for the telescope during its development was to search for the highly redshifted 21-cm line radiation from primordial neutral hydrogen clouds in order to determine the epoch of galaxy formation in the universe. It is operated by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics and TATA Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.
9. ISRO Astrosat
Astrosat is India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space telescope. The unique property of this telescope is that it is located in space. Astrosat is able to perform operations and take an observation in Infrared, Ultraviolet and X-rays, that too simultaneously. It is said to collect an approximate of over 420 GB worth of data every day. Based on the success of Astrosat, ISRO has proposed to launch Astrosat-2 by the year 2020. The Ground Command and Control Center for Astrosat is the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), Bangalore, India.
10. Major Atmospheric Cerenkov Experiment (MACE) Telescope
MACE is the world’s largest telescope at the highest altitude. It is established in Hanle, Ladakh. It has the second largest Gamma Ray telescope in the world and is used for the understandings in the field of Astrophysics, Fundamental Physics, and Particle Acceleration mechanism. It is built by Electronics Corporation of India, Hyderabad, for the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). It is operational since 2016, it runs on solar power and is remotely operated.
- High Altitude Gamma Ray Observatory (HAGAR)
- Himalayan Chandra Observatory
- Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Services (ARIES)
- Udaipur Solar Observatory
- Mount Abu InfraRed Observatory (MIRO)
- Vainu Bappu Observatory
- GRAPES – 3
- Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope
- ISRO Astrosat
- Major Atmospheric Cerenkov Experiment (MACE) Telescope