With several achievements such as the faster method of predicting space weather under its belt err under its dome in 2021, the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) located at Hanle near Leh in Ladakh has emerged as one of the promising observatory sites globally.
The obvious advantages of more clear nights, minimal light pollution, background aerosol concentration, extremely dry atmospheric conditions, and no interruption by monsoon are among the reasons that have made the Hanle Observatory a popular and promising site belonging to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru.
Among its achievements are: “A faster method of predicting space weather has been identified in a type of solar radio bursts observed using the global network of solar radio telescopes called CALLISTO; a clue to the mystery behind the high abundance of Lithium, a trace element on Earth has been traced. An active galaxy found in a very bright state with 10 times more X-ray emission than normal, equivalent to more than 10 trillion of the Sun, and located five billion light-years away could help probe how particles behave under intense gravity and acceleration to the speed of light.”
An algorithm that can increase the accuracy of data from exoplanets by reducing the contamination by the Earth’s atmosphere and the disturbances due to instrumental effects and other factors has been developed while a new method to understand the atmosphere of extrasolar planets has been found.
“Besides, we now have clues to the mystery of solar flares and coronal mass ejections in regions on the Sun with disturbed magnetic fields that can help improve solar weather predictions,” said a release.
Earlier in the year, researchers from India and their collaborators had carried out a detailed study of the nighttime cloud cover fraction over eight high altitude observatories, including three in India. They used re-analysis data, combined from assimilation and observation extending over 41 years along with 21 years of data from satellites.
The study classified the quality of observable nights for different astronomical usages like photometry and spectroscopy on a daily basis. They analyzed datasets for the IAO in Hanle and found that the Hanle site has nearly 270 clear nights in a year and is also one of the emerging sites for infrared and sub-millimeter optical astronomy.
After examining several years of data of various astro-climatological parameters, IIA had installed the two-meter aperture Himalayan Chandra Telescope at IAO, Hanle, in 2000.
Thereafter, due to the uniqueness of this site, several astronomical telescopes operating at optical and infrared wavebands have been installed at Hanle by several institutes in the country.