Pangong Lake in Ladakh to host world’s largest solar telescope

Jammu and Kashmir is all set to get world’s largest solar telescope at world famous Pangong Lake in Ladakh region.

The telescope, with an aperture of two metres, is expected to be of great help in understanding the process of creation and decay of sunspots, apart from furthering cutting edge research on other fundamental processes taking place on Sun. According to officials, the National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) is the proposed 2m class telescope that would address the critical problems in astrophysics.

“The geographical location at (Pangong Lake in Ladakh) will fill the longitudinal gap between Europe and Japan,” officials informed. “Based on extensive survey on potential sites, Merak on the shores of Pangong Tso, has been identified as an outstanding word class site for its instalment,” the officials said. They said that the parameters that determine good site for observation was largely based on the Optimum Atmospheric Pressure.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Giving details of the over Rs 500-crore project, Prof Dipankar Banerjee of the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics, who works on the project, said that site evaluation for the telescope has been scientifically carried out. He said that site evaluation showed 50 percent of the clear time the perceptible water vapour content with 5mm over several hours during periods with good seeing condition. He also informed that evaluation of aerosol concentration and size distribution and its seasonal variation to look for low levels of dust and high sky transparency.

“The location will also help in monitoring of meteorological parameters, especially the lower wind speed and presence of mild gusts and direction also the laminar winds blowing in favourable condition,” Banerjee said.

He said that once the project would get all the clearances, it would be one of the few solar telescope facilities in the world with a capability to do both day and night astronomy. It would also fill the longitude gap between Japan and Europe.

“The innovative design and backend instruments would further enable observations with an unprecedented high spatial resolution that would provide crucial information on the nature of magnetic fields in the solar atmosphere,” he said, adding, “A better understanding of how and why of the formation and decay of sunspots assumes importance as they pose a threat to the communication system on earth as well as satellites orbiting in the outer space.”

The official said that the increased sunspot activity frequently accompanies an increase in the outflow of matter from the sun in the form of solar wind. He said that charged particles in this wind can interfere with the operation of satellites by introducing what is called background static and also interact with atoms in the upper part of earth’s atmosphere and thus wreaking havoc with the communication systems on ground.

“Satellites in low earth orbit face greater risk as during periods of heightened solar activity, the earth's upper atmosphere swells up slightly in response to the extra heating, which in turn increases the rate of decay of these satellites,” he said. Pertinently the matter of seating up of National Large Solar Telescope in J&K was discussed threadbare in the 10th meeting of the Standing Committee of State Board for Wildlife at civil secretariat in summer capital Srinagar recently, which was chaired by Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment Choudhary Lal Singh.
The minister too has expressed happiness over setting up of such mega projects into the State.

Meanwhile the officials attending the meeting had also raised queries over China likely to be an impediment, to which the minister said, “When we do something in our boundary, why should they (Chinese) be bothered.”


Published Date: May 20, 2016 10:07 pm | Updated Date: May 20, 2016 10:07 pm