International Liquid Mirror Telescope

Recently, India inaugurated the largest International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT) in Devasthal, Uttarakhand. This four-meter telescope is designed exclusively for astronomical observations and is the first optical survey telescope in India. The observatory will explore the deep celestial sky, classifying objects from asteroids to supernovae, and space debris.

What is the International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT)?

The ILMT has a 4-meter-diameter rotating mirror made up of a thin layer of liquid mercury, which is highly reflective and designed to survey the strip of the sky passing overhead each night. The telescope has three components: a bowl containing reflecting liquid mercury metal, an air bearing (or motor) on which the liquid mirror sits, and a drive system. The mercury is protected from the wind by a scientific-grade thin transparent film of mylar. The reflected light passes through a sophisticated multi-lens optical corrector that produces sharp images over a wide field of view. A 4k × 4k CCD camera, located above the mirror at the focus, records 22 arcminute wide strips of the sky.

Why is this a big moment for astronomy in India?

The Devasthal observatory is equipped with the largest aperture telescope available in India that will use Big Data and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) algorithms to classify objects in the sky. The data gathered by the telescope will be analyzed quickly using AI and machine learning to catalog the objects in the sky, including variable and transient stellar sources.

ILMT is designed to detect transient or variable celestial objects such as supernovae, gravitational lenses, space debris, and asteroids. The data collected from the ILMT, over an operational time of five years, will be ideally suited to perform a deep photometric and astrometric variability survey.





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