Inauguration of the ILMT, a liquid mirror telescope located at the Devasthal Observatory
Designed to identify and study transient or variable objects in our galaxy and beyond, the ILMT - the International Liquid Mirror Telescope - has just been inaugurated in India in the presence of, among others, Anne-Sophie Nyssen (Rector of the University of Liège), Didier Vanderhasselt (Belgian Ambassador to India), Brigitte Decadt (BELSPO) and Jean Surdej (University of Liège), initiator of the project.
ndian, Belgian and Canadian astronomers have a new tool to observe the cosmos with the commissioning of the International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT). Located at the Devasthal Observatory in India's central Himalayas, the telescope uses a 4-meter diameter rotating mirror, covered with a thin film of liquid mercury, to collect and focus light. The telescope is designed to study the band of the sky that passes overhead each night, allowing it to identify transient or variable objects such as supernovae, gravitational lenses, space debris, asteroids, etc.
Present at the inauguration of the telescope, Rector Anne-Sophie Nyssen was pleased that the University of Liege was at the origin of this project, the instrument having been produced by the company Amos, a spin-off of the ULiège. "This underlines once again the competencies of our University in the field of space and astrophysics. It is the result of a project imagined many years ago and pursued with perseverance by Pr Jean Surdej. It is an important event for science and international scientific collaboration."
The establishment of this telescope and its operation is part of the bilateral agreement BINA, the Belgo-Indian Network for Astronomy and Astrophysics (BINA). The inauguration of the telescope took place in the presence of Anne-Sophie Nyssen (Rector of the ULiège), Prof. Jean Surdej (responsible for the project), Prof. Ronald van der Linden (Director of the Royal Observatory of Belgium), Mr Didier Vanderhasselt (Ambassador of Belgium in India), Mrs Brigitte Decadt (BELSPO) and Indian representatives.
About the Devasthal Observatory
The Devasthal Observatory is an astronomical site in India, located at an altitude of 2450 meters in the Kumaun region of the Himalayas, in the district of Nainital, in the state of Uttarakhand. It is operated by the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES; Nainital, India) and currently houses three telescopes: a 1.3-m optical telescope and two so-called Indo-Belgian telescopes. The Devathal 3.6-m optical telescope (DOT; Fig. 1, left and middle) received this status because it was built by AMOS (Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems; Liege, Belgium) with financial support from the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO; Belgian government). In return for this financial support, 7% of the telescope's operating time with the DOT is reserved for projects led by Belgian astronomers. The International Liquid Mirror Telescope 4 m (ILMT; Fig. 1, right) is a Belgian initiative led by members of the University of Liege in collaboration with institutes in India (ARIES; Nainital) and Canada (Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria).
A panoramic view of the Devasthal Observatory campus of ARIES at Nainital, Uttarakhand.
The Belgo-Indian Network for Astronomy and Astrophysics (BINA) was created to increase interaction between Indian and Belgian astronomers and to stimulate the joint use of Indo-Belgian and other telescopes of interest to maximize their scientific output for the solar system, galactic and extragalactic celestial objects. The network resulting from this collaboration continues to expand and currently involves collaborators from six Belgian institutes, including ULiège, and twelve Indian institutes.