India has a long tradition of creating space observatories. In the early 19th century, Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur constructed five Jantar Mantars in total, in New Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi; they were completed between 1724 and 1735.
Earlier observatories were primarily intended to measure the time of day, correct to half a second and declination of the Sun and the other heavenly bodies. Later, they evolved with the purpose to provide support on shipping and Geomagnetism. Just like planetariums, space observatories indicate the inclination of a country toward astronomy and outer space exploration.
Here we list down 10 such modern day space observatories that showcases India’s quest for space (in alphabet order).
1: 3.6 m Devasthal Optical Telescope, Nainital
The 3.6m Devesthal Optical Telescope is a clear aperture Ritchey-Chretien style telescope built by Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences(ARIES) and is located at the Devasthal Observatory site near Nainital, India. ARIES operates another 1.3m telescope at the same location. The telescope was activated remotely on March 31, 2016 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel from Brussels. The telescope optics has been built in collaboration with the Belgian firm Advanced Mechanical & Optical System (AMOS).
2: Gauribidanur Radio Observatory, Gauribidanur
The Gauribidanur Radio Observatory is a radio telescope observatory located at Gauribidanur, near Bengaluru. It is operated jointly by Raman Research Institute and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. The observatory has been in operation since 1976.
3: Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope, Pune
The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), located near Pune in India, is an array of thirty fully steerable parabolic radio telescopes of 45 metre diameter, observing at metre wavelengths. It is operated by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. At the time it was built, it was the world’s largest interferometric array offering a baseline of up to 25 kilometres (16 mi).
4. Girawali Observatory, Pune
IUCAA Girawali Observatory is an optical astronomy observatory run by the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune. The Observatory is located about 80 km from Pune City, off the Pune Nashik Highway.
5: Indian Astronomical Observatory, Hanle
The Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), located near Leh in Ladakh, India, has one of the world’s highest sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes. It is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. It is currently the second highest optical telescope in the world, situated at an elevation of 4,500 meters (14,764 ft).
6: Kodaikanal Solar Observatory, Kodaikanal
The Kodaikanal Solar Observatory is a solar observatory owned and operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. It is on the southern tip of the Palni Hills 4 km from Kodaikanal town, Dindigul district, Tamil Nadu state, South India.
The Evershed effect was first detected at this observatory in January 1909. Solar data collected by the lab is the oldest continuous series of its kind in India. Precise observations of the equatorial electrojet are made here due to the unique geography of Kodaikanal.
7: Madras Observatory, Chennai
The Madras Observatory was founded by the British East India Company in 1786 in Chennai (then Madras). For over a century it was the only astronomical observatory in India that exclusively worked on the stars. Among the astronomers at the observatory were Norman Robert Pogson, Michael Topping and John Goldingham. By 1899, it had been relegated to gathering weather-related data.
8: Ooty Radio Telescope, Ooty
The Ooty Radio Telescope is located in Muthorai near Ootacamund (Ooty), south India. It is part of the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) of the well known Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) which is funded by the Government of India through the Department of atomic energy. The Ooty Radio Telescope (ORT) is a 530-metre (1,740 ft) long and 30-metre (98 ft) wide Cylindrical Paraboloid telescope. It operates at a frequency of 326.5 MHz with a maximum bandwidth of 15 MHz at the front-end.
9: Udaipur Solar Observatory, Udaipur
The Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO) is in Udaipur, Rajasthan in India on an island in the Fateh Sagar Lake. The sky conditions at Udaipur are quite favourable for solar observations. Since the observatory is situated amidst a large mass of water, air turbulence which occurs due to ground heating by sun’s rays is decreased. This improves the image quality and accuracy (average between 1-2 arc seconds).
10: Vainu Bappu Observatory, Vellore
The Vainu Bappu Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned and operated by Indian Institute of Astrophysics. It is located at Kavalur in the Javadi Hills, near Vaniyambadi in Vellore district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is 200 km south-west of Chennai & 175 km south-east of Bangalore.