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The state of Jammu and Kashmir has a million times been referred to as paradise on earth. And if anyone you know has ever been to the Ladakh valley, they’d testify for you the true measure of this paradisaical wonder. The scenic beauty and serenity of Ladakh is simply unparalleled. And on top of that the tags of the highest motorable road, highest military base in the world and one of the highest airports in the world just adds to the enigma of the valley. If this wasn’t enough, the Department of Science and Technology (Government of India) is on its way to setting up the world’s largest solar telescope in Ladakh.

TMT or the Thirty Metre Telescope is a 1.47 billion dollar (US) project, which was originally to be installed in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, but in December 2015 the Supreme Court of Hawaii cancelled the permit for its construction due to claims that the plot allotted for constructing the observatory was sacred. Now, Hanle district of Ladakh has been short listed by the international team of scientists for setting up the giant telescope with a 2metre reflector.

Once it gets installed, scientists will be able to perform cutting edge researches in order to explore the details of the complex chemical and physical processes that take place inside the sun. TMT will also allow scientists to study the long term climatic and environmental changes that are occurring or will occur in the future on our planet. These observations will also provide them with data needed to carry out researches, aimed to diminish disruptions in the communication networks throughout the world, which are sometimes caused by the periodic solar winds.

Meanwhile, India is gearing up to set up the telescope by building actuators, edge sensors and system support assemblies. Indian scientists involved with the project are also helping the international team by developing the TMT software. It is expected that India will invest up to $212 million (US) in the project. The Indian Institute of Astrophysics or IIA, along with IUCAA, are on their toes since the inception of this project. Teams from these two departments, along with international team of scientists, are working towards developing the telescope since the last 3 years.

Once this project is completed, India will become one of the leading hubs for large telescopes. Recently, on 30th March, the largest optical telescope of Asia was activated by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi along with Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel. This telescope is located in Devasthal, near Nainital, Uttarakhand.

Projects like these are a sign that India is quickly reaching where only a select few countries have reached and will soon be at the pinnacle of innovation and technology. We are closing in on the stars.

Amit Batra

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