Ladakh may host the world's largest telescope
The proposed largest telescope project in the world, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), is facing protests in Hawaii, USA. The construction of the project was to start in 2015 but was stalled by the US Supreme Court which revoked the construction permit on procedural grounds. Although Hawaii is working on the permit, the project partners are looking for alternate sites which include Ladakh.
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is a proposed astronomical observatory which was planned in Mauna Kea in Hawaii in the US to study solar system, Milky way, etc. The TMT is designed to observe astronomical phenomena in the near Ultraviolet to mid-infrared wavelengths (0.31 to 28 μm wavelengths). The project is a collaboration of several nations including China, Japan, India, Canada and the US.
The TMT has a large aperture of 30 meter which provides a collection area of 9-times the current largest optical/infrared telescope. Moreover, it provides better focus than smaller telescopes allowing it to capture images of fainter objects.
The planned location of TMT in Hawaii is considered as sacred to the native Hawaiian culture and religion. This led to protests by locals and frequent stopping of the construction activities. Even after the Hawaiian Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the project, the US Supreme Court invalidated it on the grounds that due process was not followed while granting the permission.
India has a 10% share in the TMT project. In India, the Ministry of Science and Technology and Department of Atomic Energy are handling the project.
The project partners are mulling over shifting the project due to the financial and scientific value it holds. New sites are being explored for the TMT both in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. Hanle in Ladakh is one of the sites along with Chile that is contending for hosting the TMT. However, the project will be delayed by 18-24 months.
If the project shifts to Hanle, Ladakh, it can open various avenues in India from providing employment to locals to augmenting state-of-the-art high-end scientific capabilities and expertise of the nation.