What the International Liquid Mirror Telescope means for astronomy | Science

What the International Liquid Mirror Telescope means for astronomy | Science

The Worldwide Liquid Mirror Telescope, perched excessive within the Himalayas, has lastly began making observations. If it succeeds, we may in the future put a a lot bigger liquid telescope on the moon


6 December 2022

A 4-metre liquid mirror telescope with a retractable roof (left) sits subsequent to 2 optical telescopes in the Indian Himalayas

Jean Surdej

ATOP an Indian mountain sits a 4-metre-wide reflecting basin, its ripple-free floor mirroring every thing above it. It’s as if somebody scooped up a bit of the Bolivian salt flats, the world’s largest pure mirror, and put it within the Himalayas. However not like South America’s Salar de Uyuni, the place the salt plains coated by water produce unimaginable reflections that draw many sightseers, the basin on the mountain is crammed with liquid mercury. And that is no vacationer hotspot: it may well solely be accessed by a small group of scientists who use it to look at the heavens.

The basin is a part of a novel telescope. Located in an observatory within the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, the Worldwide Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT) makes use of the pool of shiny steel to assemble gentle from the skies.

Such telescopes have advantages over standard ones. Most significantly, they’re much cheaper to construct. However though the concept of a liquid telescope has been round for hundreds of years, making a viable one has confirmed fiendishly difficult. The ILMT was within the works for greater than a decade. This yr, it opened its eye for the primary time. It’s the largest of its variety, and the primary constructed to hold out astronomical observations.

The telescope scans the evening sky within the hope of recognizing new phenomena – when it isn’t raining, that’s. However astronomers hope the potential of those gadgets will in the future attain far greater than …

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