World’s First Liquid Mirror Telescope

Image (Credit): Top view of the International Liquid Mirror Telescope located at the Devasthal Observatory of the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences showing the liquid mercury mirror covered by a thin mylar film. (India Today)

An earlier post mentioned NASA’s plans for a liquid mirror telescope in space. Well, India now has one here on Earth.

The Indian Express reports that the liquid mirror telescope was designed and built at the Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems Corporation and the Centre Spatial de Liege, Belgium. While funded by Canada and Belgium, it will be maintained and operated by India. The article states:

India’s first liquid-mirror telescope, which will observe asteroids, supernovae, space debris and all other celestial objects from an altitude of 2,450 metres in the Himalayas, has seen its first light. It has now entered the commissioning phase and will start scientific observations some time in October this year.

Liquid mirror telescopes have a few advantages, including being inexpensive to build and providing a very efficient way to image a large area of the sky. A disadvantage is that such a telescope must lie flat on Earth and can only observe what passes overhead (unlike space where the lack of gravity may offer other options). Even so, India expects to obtain plenty of information using this new form of telescope.

A new way to view the heavens. This may be the start of something pretty amazing.