You are invited to a public talk by
Professor, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore
Indian Astronomical Observatory, Hanle
At 5 pm, Sept 7th 2008 Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi
Be at the Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi, at 5 PM, on the 7th of September, to hear about the exciting astronomy that happens from the highest altitude observatory for Optical and Infra Red Astronomy, in the world.
Where is Hanle?
At, Digpa-ratsa Ri, Hanle, at Changtang Ladakh, at the border of Himachal Pradesh and Tibet, in the Himalayas. This is officially known as the Indian Astronomical Observatory and is situated on Mount Saraswati, the highest peak in this region.
Why was this location chosen, to build an observatory?
Traditionally, we have the Indian ascetics going to the Himalayas, looking for peace and quiet. Well, so do Astronomers look for a haven of peace that would be free of clouds, atmospheric disturbances caused by aerosols, pollen and dust as well as well away from light pollution induced by human habitation. It is precisely such a haven that is provided at these high altitudes, in the Himalayas.
In monsoon ridden India, there are rain shadow regions in Ladakh, where the Monsoon winds are effectively stopped. The thin air at such elevations is yet another factor that is very good for Astronomy, giving much better viewing conditions than at sea level.
Enthusiastic amateur astronomers Raghu Kalra, Ajay Talwar, Vikrant Narang and Pankaj trekked on their own, all the way to this highest altitude observatory in the world, in June 2007 and came back mesmerized by the romancing of the skies that had become possible for them, at these altitudes. But, they also conclude – what is good for Astronomy, is bad for the human body. The thin atmosphere which is so good for viewing celestial objects in the sky, is what makes this region so difficult for the body to adjust.
But, yes, it is good for astronomy, this inhospitable nature of the region where this observatory is located, which has made possible many exciting observations related to Supernovae and optical afterglows of Gamma Ray Bursts.
The 2 meter Himalayan Chandra Telescope of this observatory, is operated through remote control, from a centre of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, located at the town of Hosakote, near Bangalore.
Many are unaware of the fact that this exciting observatory, at the highest altitude location for any observatory in the world, is right here in India. Be there at the Planetarium, to get to know what it is like doing astronomy at such high altitudes and the exciting celestial science emerging from these observations!