The International Liquid-Mirror Telescope (ILMT) has been set up at the Devasthal Observatory campus owned by Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital in Uttarakhand.
Located at 2,450 metres above mean sea level, there are two firsts with this — it’s the only one to have been developed for astronomy research and is also the only one of its kind to be operational anywhere in the world.
India, Belgium, Canada, Poland and Uzbekistan are the main countries who have collaborated to set up the ILMT. The telescope was designed and built at the Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems Corporation and the Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium.
- The handful of liquid-telescopes that were previously built either tracked satellites or were deployed for military purposes.
- ILMT will be the third telescope facility to come up at Devasthal — one of the world’s pristine sites for obtaining astronomical observations.
Difference from a conventional telescope
A conventional telescope is steered to point towards the celestial source of interest in the sky for observations. The liquid-mirror telescopes, on the other hand, are stationary telescopes that image a strip of the sky which is at the zenith at a given point of time in the night.
In other words, a liquid-mirror telescope will survey and capture any and all possible celestial objects — from stars, galaxies, supernovae explosions, asteroids to space debris.
Conventional telescopes have highly polished glass mirrors — either single or a combination of curved ones — that are steered in a controlled fashion to focus onto the targeted celestial object on specific nights. The light is then reflected to create images.