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India’s First Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT)

Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT):

The four-metre International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT) saw the first light recently, gazing out from its vantage on Devasthal, a hill in Uttarakhand, into the deep sky.

  • The telescope, staring at the sky overhead, will make sky surveys possible and obtain images that can help observe transient phenomena such as supernovae and record the presence of space debris or meteorites — basically, watch the skies.
  • The telescope has been built by a collaboration of scientists from Canada, Belgium and India.
  • It is located at an altitude of 2,450 metres on the Devasthal Observatory campus of the Aryabhata Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) in Nainital district, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
  • A large pool of mercury placed in a vessel is spun around so fast that it curves into a parabolic shape.
  • Since mercury is reflective, this shape helps in focusing the reflected light. A thin sheet of mylar protects the mercury from the wind.
  • The first image made by the telescope consisted of several stars and a galaxy, NGC 4274, which is 45 million light years away.
  • The telescope, having a primary mirror that is liquid, cannot be turned and pointed in any direction.
  • It “stares” at the zenith and watches the sky as the earth rotates, thereby giving a view of different objects.