World's largest solar telescope coming up in Ladakh

India is expected to start building the world's largest solar telescope on the icy heights of Ladakh to study the sun's atmosphere and understand the formation of sun-spots and their decay process.

The Rs 300-crore project is expected to come up at either Hanle or Merak, which is very near to the Ladakh's Pangong lake along the Line of Actual Control with China.

Currently, the world's largest solar telescope is the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope with an aperture size of 1.6 metres in Kitt Peak National Observatory at Arizona in the US.

"Fabrication of the National Large Solar Telescope is expected to begin in late 2013," Siraj Hasan, Principal Investigator for the project, told reporters on the sidelines of the 100th Indian Science Congress here.

The telescope, with an aperture size of two meters, is planned to be completed by 2017 and will be the largest such facility in the world at least till 2020 when US is expected to commission its four-meter telescope at Hawaii.

The main objective of the facility would be to study the formation and decay of sun spots, their subsurface structure and Why do they have a penumbra and how is it formed, Hasan said.

Most of the back-end instruments of the telescope would be made in-house and the instrument for night time observations would be developed in collaboration with Hamburg Observatory in Germany.

NLST is expected to be a unique research tool which is likely to attract several talented solar astronomers to the country and provide a superior platform for performing high quality solar research, Hasan said.

Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics is the nodal agency for the project, which also has participation from Indian Space Research Organisation, Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, IUCAA, IISc and IISER.

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