NEW DELHI: India will provide software, vital mirrors and control systems to build the "largest-ever" telescope as part of a global project involving the United States, Canada, China and Japan.
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be located just below the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, at an elevation of 4,050 - half the size of Mt Everest. This is one of the astronomy sites, which witnesses a large number of clear nights and stable atmosphere.
It will be the world's largest optical-infrared advanced ground-based observatory that will operate in optical and mid-infrared wavelengths.
It will be also be equipped with the latest innovations in precision control, phased array of mirror segmented mirror, made up of 492 individual hexagonal segments, each 1.44 m in size. Precisely aligned, these segments will work as a single reflective surface of 30 m diameter.
India's role will be primarily of creating control systems and software that keep the mirrors aligned and collects the data. India will contribute around 92 polished mirrors.
"The thickness of the mirror is 44 mm. Japan, as part of its contribution will be providing glass. Polishing is a big challenge as one needs to smoothen the surface and remove the roughness to get precision. A special facility has been created in Hosur for this purpose.
"Initially, we will start off by producing two (mirrors) in a year. We will make one every fortnight after procuring a technology for the purpose," said G C Anupama, a scientist from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, who is working on the ambitious project. The control systems is an intricate process involving edge sensors that detect mutual displacement of mirrors, actuators to correct their alignment, and the segment support assembly. These parts will be manufactured by Avasarala Technologies, Bengaluru and Godrej Industries, Mumbai.
India will be contributing 10 per cent of the total cost, which is Rs 1299.0 crore of the project.
The project is jointly funded by the Department of Atomic Energy (Rs 624.55 crore) and Department of Science and Technology (Rs 675.25 crore).
The project is also anchored by Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Science (ARIES), Nainital and Inter-university
Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune.
Of this 10 per cent of India's share, 70 per cent of the contribution will be in kind. Indian scientists will get an opportunity to engage in the research project for anywhere
between 30 and 35 nights for the project.
"Once the telescope is operated, it will help in unravelling mysteries of the universe, including its formation," Anupama said.