Asia’s largest International Liquid Mirror Telescope inaugurated in Uttarakhand

Devasthal: The telescope was designed and built by the Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems (AMOS) Corporation and the Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium

BY | Wednesday, 22 March, 2023
Top view of the ILMT located at the Devasthal Observatory of ARIES showing the liquid mercury mirror covered by a thin mylar film. (Credit: Ministry of Science & Technology)

Union Minister of State for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh inaugurated Asia’s largest 4-metre International Liquid Mirror Telescope at Devasthal in Uttarakhand on Tuesday, the Ministry of Science & Technology stated.

The telescope, designed and built by the Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems (AMOS) Corporation and the Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium, is located at an altitude of 2450 metre at the Devasthal Observatory campus of Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) in Nainital district, Uttarakhand.

Speaking after the launch, Dr Jitendra said that the landmark event places India at a different and a much higher level of capabilities to study the mysteries of the skies and astronomy, and to share the same with the rest of the world.

ARIES announced that the world-class 4-metre International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT) is now ready to explore the deep celestial sky. It achieved its first light in the 2nd week of May 2022.

Singh said, the ILMT employs a 4-metre-diameter rotating mirror made up of a thin layer of liquid mercury, to collect and focus light and is designed to survey the strip of the sky passing overhead each night, allowing it to detect transient or variable celestial objects such as supernovae, gravitational lenses, space debris, and asteroids, the Minister added.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, the ILMT is the first liquid mirror telescope designed exclusively for astronomical observations and this is the largest aperture telescope available in the country at present and is also the first optical survey telescope in India.

While scanning the strip of the sky every night, the telescope will generate nearly 10-15 Gigabytes of data and the wealth of ILMT generated data will permit the application of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) algorithms that will be implemented for classifying the objects observed with the ILMT.

The Minister informed that the data will be analysed quickly to discover and discern variable and transient stellar sources. The 3.6 metre DOT, with the availability of sophisticated back-end instruments, will allow rapid follow-up observations of the newly-detected transient sources with the adjacent ILMT. The data collected from the ILMT, over an operational time of 5 years, will be ideally suited to perform a deep photometric and astrometric variability survey.

Dr Jitendra Singh informed that the ILMT collaboration includes researchers from ARIES in India, the University of Liège and the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Belgium, Poznan Observatory in Poland, the Ulugh Beg Astronomical Institute of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences and National University of Uzbekistan in Uzbekistan, the University of British Columbia, Laval University, the University of Montreal, the University of Toronto, York University and the University of Victoria in Canada.

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