India’s Liquid Mirror Telescope is ready to observe the night sky

The International Liquid Mirror Telescope in his building in the Himalayas.

The International Liquid Mirror Telescope in his building in the Himalayas.
picture: Jean Sorge

High in the Himalayas, a new telescope has been set up to observe the night sky. The lens has a 4-meter (13-foot) lens, but that’s the key factor: It’s made of liquid mercury, a material rarely used in astrophotography.

It is called the International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT for short), the main component of the instrument is a layer of liquid mercury It floats on a very thin layer of compressed air. Mercury It rotates, taking on a parabolic shape in the process – useful for focusing light from the night sky. By positioning the camera at the focal point of the paraboloid, astronomers will then be able to photograph objects in the sky.

At first glance, the telescope mirror looks like an ordinary reflecting surface. but in fact , It is made of liquid It was meticulously shipped up the mountain by a company that specializes in hazardous materials. As long as no one tries to drink However, the telescope mirror is completely safe—and, according to the ILMT team, an affordable alternative to other telescope mirror materials.

“The main advantage is the relatively low cost of a large liquid mirror compared to a conventional large telescope mirror,” Paul Hickson, a University of British Columbia astronomer who works on liquid mirror technologies, said in an email to Gizmodo. “For example, an ILMT costs about one-tenth the cost of a meter 3.6 [11.8-foot] Divastal Optical Telescope – A conventional telescope is about the same size and located in the same place.”

This place is very high. The telescope is located 8000 feet above sea level on the Indian side of the Himalayas. Hickson said he will examine a strip of sky directly in the sky that contains hundreds of thousands of galaxies and several thousand quasars. (Quasars are very active galactic cores, and they are bright in the night sky.)

By photographing the night sky — directly above the sky, where there is the least noise in the atmosphere — astronomers can infer things that are changing in the sky over time, whether it’s new supernovae, asteroids passing in front of luminous objects, or even black holes. The light from behind them.

“We estimated that 50 new instances of multiple imaged quasars should be detected in the ILMT’s field of view,” Jean Sordy, an astrophysicist at the University of Liege in Belgium and project manager, said in an email to Gizmodo.

telescope saw that it The first light in AprilAnd the But scientific observations will not begin until later this year. When working at full capacity, The telescope will collect 10 gigabytes of data every night. Given the mercurial nature of supernovae and gravitational lensing, it is appropriate for ILMT to capture those events using pink silver.

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