The telescope will help probe the skies, making it possible to observe multiple galaxies and other astronomical sources simply by staring at the band of sky passing overhead.
The telescope, built by Indian, Belgian and Canadian astronomers, is located at an altitude of 2450 meters on the Devasthal Observatory campus of the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), in Nainital district, Uttarakhand.
“I hope this project will attract and motivate several young minds from scientific and technical backgrounds to take on difficult challenges,” said Dipankar Banerjee, Director of ARIES, referring to the new facilities at the Devasthal Observatory which now hosts two four meter class telescopes. – the International Liquid-Mirror Telescope (ILMT) and the Devasthal Optical Telescope (DOT).
Both are the largest aperture telescopes available in the country. The 3.6 meter DOT, with the availability of sophisticated back-end instrumentation, will allow rapid follow-up observations of newly detected transient sources with the adjacent ILMT. The application of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) algorithms will also be implemented to classify the objects observed with the ILMT.
“When regular science operations begin later this year, ILMT will produce around 10 GB of data each night, which will be rapidly analyzed to reveal variable and transient stellar sources,” said Brajesh Kumar, ILMT project scientist at ARIES.
“The wealth of data generated by the ILMT survey will be exemplary. In the future, several young researchers will work on different scientific programs using ILMT data,” said Kuntal Misra, who is the ILMT project researcher at ARIES.
In addition to researchers from ARIES in India, the ILMT collaboration includes scientists from the University of Liège and the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Belgium, the Poznan Observatory in Poland, the Astronomical Institute of Ulugh Beg of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan and the National University of Uzbekistan in Uzbekistan, the University of British Columbia, Laval University, the University of Montreal, the University of Toronto, the University York and the University of Victoria in Canada.
“The telescope was designed and built by the company Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems (AMOS) and the Center Spatial de Liège in Belgium,” the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement released on Thursday.
The new instrument uses a rotating mirror 4 meters in diameter made of a thin film of liquid mercury to collect and focus light.
“Scientists from the three countries (India, Belgium and Canada) rotated a pool of mercury, which is a reflective liquid, so that the surface curves into a parabolic shape ideal for focusing light. A thin transparent film of mylar protects the mercury from the wind. 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 in the foyer records the images,” the ministry said.