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India’s first robotic telescope opens its eyes to the universe

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India’s newest telescope has started observing the skies.

The telescope located at the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) at Hanle in Ladakh is the country’s first robotic telescope and the first one designed to observe dynamic or transient events in the universe.

“The telescope saw its first light on the night of June 12,” G C Anupama,  in-charge of IAO and the Centre for Research and Education in Science and Technology (CREST) at Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) Bangalore, told India Science Wire.

Young astronomers who were in Hanle are excited over the development. “For the first light, targets were chosen from the Messier catalog – a catalog of nearby, bright astronomical sources accessible from the northern hemisphere. These chosen regions are not only rich in stars, thereby allowing for various image quality tests but are also visually stunning,” recalled Atharva Patil, a project student, and Shubham Srivastav, a postdoctoral fellow – both from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay-  while speaking to India Science Wire. Both were involved with the installation of the telescope.

Called GROWTH-India, the facility at Hanle is part of a multi-country collaborative initiative known as Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen (GROWTH) to observe transient events in the universe. The fully robotic optical research telescope is designed to capture cosmic events occurring in timescales much shorter than light years – years, days and even hours.

Universities and research institutes from the US, the UK, Japan, India, Germany, Taiwan, and Israel are part of the initiative. The primary research objective of the project is time-domain astronomy, which entails the study of explosive transients and variable sources in the universe.

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