Udaipur – Home to India’s biggest multi-application solar telescope

Udaipur, second in the world to have the unique multi-application solar telescope (MAST) launched

Udaipur Solar Observatory

Udaipur is now housing India’s biggest multi-application solar telescope (MAST) in the Solar Observatory (stationed on an island in the middle of Fatehsagar lake). This World’s second largest telescope after China was inaugurated on August 4, 2015. Under the project, the telescope will maintain regular surveillance over the sun automatically and take digital velocity images of it every minute. This unique telescope will discern the sun and facilitate space weather predictions in future and detailed study of solar activities. This will enhance the understanding of scientists about solar flares and would get 3D pictures of the phenomena.  


About the Project

The MAST project has been supervised by the Ministry of Science and Technology and will be dealt by the PRL (Physical Research Laboratory, Research Institution in Ahemdabad). Reports say, a sum of 26 crores has been spent on the project so far. The main idea behind this project is that obtaining the high spatial and temporal resolution observations of solar activities will help experts understand the various dynamic phenomena occurring on the sun’s surface, as said by professor UR Rao, a space scientist and chairman of the governing council of PRL. It also aims to combine the techniques of helioseismology (study of the propagation of wave oscillations, particularly acoustic pressure waves, in the Sun) with magnetic field measurements. The reason it has been installed in Udaipur is because of the Solar Observatory’s strategic location. The scientists had proposed for MAST in 2004 and the telescope has now been made operational after 11 years.


USO (Udaipur Solar Observatory)

The Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO) was built in the year 1976 by Dr. Arvind Bhatnagar, later joined by Dr. Ashok Ambastha. It is currently headed by Dr.P. Venkatakrishnan.

The 39 year old observatory is encircled by water where temperature at the surface layers is minimal resulting in less dramatic climate on island than on continents. This, in turn, will lessen the upheaval and chaos in the air propagating a clearer image quality and accuracy. Also, the observatory witnesses continuous sunshine during the major part of the year which assists the advanced solar telescope to upgrade the resolution.


Unique features of the telescope

MAST is different from other telescopes in the sense that it is capable of capturing three dimensional aspects of the solar magnetic fields. It has larger apertures which will not only increase the resolution, but also to increase the light-collecting power usually in the day time. MAST is believed to have main optical elements with long focal lengths and light paths operating in a vacuum or helium to eliminate air motion due to convection inside the telescope.

The 50cm aperture telescope is known for its solar observations including high resolution photospheric and chromospheric solar activity, velocity, magnetic field, mass ejections and the evolution of solar active regions and studies pertaining to solar flares. While its rear part was developed by the observatory, its front was developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

While MAST will help researchers profusely in studying the sun and its related components, it will usher the country to a voluminous amount of astronomical information that is owned only by a few countries in the world.

Article By: Divyani Nagar