The world’s largest liquid mirror telescope comes online

Ask any astronomer, astrophysicist or cosmologist, and they will probably tell you that a new age of astronomy is upon us! Between breakthroughs in gravitational wave astronomy, the explosion in exoplanet study, and the next generation of ground and space telescopes coming online, it’s clear that we are on the cusp of an era of near-continuous discovery! As always, great discoveries, innovations and things that enable scientists and researchers to inspire to look ahead and take the next big step.

Take, for example, research in advanced liquid mirrors and interferometers, which will use entirely new types of telescopes and light-gathering to advance astronomy. The prime example is commissioning talk International Liquid Mirror Telescope The recently launched ILMT telescope on Devasthal Peak, a 2,450 m (8,040 ft) mountain in the Central Himalayas. Unlike conventional telescopes, the ILMT relies on a rapidly rotating 4 meter (13 ft) long mirror coated with a layer of mercury to capture cosmic light.

Like other observatories, ILMT is located high above sea level to reduce distortion caused by water vapor in the atmosphere (a phenomenon known as atmospheric refraction). Very similar to ESO Observatory Paranal in northern Chile or Mauna Kea . Observatory In Hawaii, the ILMT telescope is part of the Observatory of Destruction It is located in the remote mountains of Uttarakhand province in northern India (western Nepal). The telescope is designed to observe the sky and identify objects such as supernovae, gravitational lenses, space debris, asteroids, and other transiting and changing phenomena.

ILMT mirror photo taken during testing at Lie? im in belgium. Credit: ILMT/University of Liege Collaboration

Dr Paul Hicksona UBC Physics and Astronomy Professors and pioneers of liquid mirror technology have been perfecting the technology over the years big zenith telescope (LZT). Located in the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest east of Vancouver, British Columbia, LZT was the largest liquid metal mirror prior to ILMT commissioning. Because of their expertise, Dr. Hickson and colleagues played an important role in the design and construction of the ILMT air system. The facility received its first light last May and will be temporarily closed in October due to India’s rainy season.

While it may sound like something out of science fiction, the basics of this technology are quite simple. The technology is divided into three components, including a plate filled with a reflective liquid (such as mercury), a rotating part, in which there is a liquid mirror (LM) (powered by an air compressor), and a drive system. When turned on, the LM takes advantage of the fact that the rotational force causes the mirror to have a parabolic shape, which is ideal for focusing light. Meanwhile, the liquid mercury is protected by a very thin layer of optical quality mylar which prevents the formation of small waves (due to wind or rotation).

Liquid mercury provides an inexpensive alternative to glass mirrors, which are very heavy and expensive to manufacture. The reflected light passes through a state-of-the-art multi-lens optical corrector while a large-format electronic camera when focusing records the image. As explained by Dr. Hoxon at the University of British Columbia for science pers conference:

“The mirror rotates once every eight seconds, floating above a layer of compressed air 10 microns thick. In comparison, a human hair is 70 microns thick. Air cushions are so sensitive that smoke particles can damage them. A second air pocket prevents the rotor from moving. Laterally, the rotation of the earth causes the image to drift through the camera, but this movement is compensated electronically.

“The camera has a corrector lens which has been specially designed to eliminate the curvature of the star path. The stars revolve around the north celestial pole, around the North Star. If you take time in exposure, the stars don’t”

A devastating 3.6m optical telescope at night. Credit: Aries

Regular scientific operations are scheduled to begin later this year. At this point, ILMT is expected to collect about 10 Gb of data each night to be analyzed for stellar sources. These sources will then be selected for follow-up observations using the 3.6 m (11.8 ft) Telescope Optics Divastal (DOT) and its advanced spectroscopic instruments. As part of the facility you supervise Aryapatta . Supervised Science Research Institute (ARIES) – which includes the ILMT and the ancient Devesthal Temple – DOT has the distinction of being the largest optical telescope in India.

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In particular, ILMT will look for astronomical phenomena that are at the forefront of current astronomical research. This includes objects that change, stars whose brightness varies over time due to changes in their physical properties, or objects that block them (planets, dust rings, etc.). Transient phenomena, on the other hand, refer to short-lived events such as supernovae, fast radio explosions (FRBs), gamma ray explosions (GRBs), gravitational microlensing, etc. Studying these objects will lead to breakthroughs in astrophysics and cosmology.

Apart from ARIES and UBC, other organizations that are members of the ILMT collaboration include: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), day Oleg Beg Institute of Astronomy (part of Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences), the university of lies? ge, dan Royal Belgian ObservatoryPoznan Observatory in Poland, Laval University, University of Montreal, University of Toronto, York University and Victoria University in Canada.

In -depth reading: UBC

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