On the celebrations of 50 years of operations of the Vainu Bappu 40-inch telescope, several stellar discoveries of the telescope were highlighted. The celebrations were held on the 15th and 16th of December 2022 in Kavalur, Tamil Nadu. The telescope set up by Professor Vainu Bappu has played a significant role in astronomy with major discoveries like the presence of rings around the planet Uranus, a new satellite of Uranus, the presence of an atmosphere around Ganymede which is a satellite of Jupiter.
Several important kinds of research were conducted with the telescope, including the discovery and study of many ‘Be Stars’, Lithium depletion in giant stars, optical variability in Blazars, and the dynamics of the famous supernova SN 1987A.
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Vainu Bappu 40-inch Telescope Highlighted at 50-year Celebration- Key Points
- The telescope in the observatory continues to be relevant because of the backend instruments that engineers and astronomers built over the last 50 years to keep the telescope competitive.
- Starting from the Cassegrain photometer and Echelle spectrograph in 1976, the new grating spectrograph in 1978, the fast-chopping polarimeter in 1988 with its replacement in 2016, and the latest NIR photometer in 2021, the observatory has constantly been upgrading its facilities.
- The telescope stands witness to the technological changes in astronomical observations, from photographic plates to modern CCDs.
- Professor Vainu Bappu chose Kavalur as the site for such an observatory as it was clear that India needed a high-quality optical observatory to conduct research in modern astronomy.
- The skies above Kavalur were excellent, and its southern location would allow it to see most of the northern and southern skies.
- A few years after the observatory started operation, Prof. Bappu placed an order for a 40-inch telescope with Carl Zeiss of Jena (then East Germany), which was subsequently installed in 1972.
- The telescope, whose mirror has a diameter of 40 inches (or 102 cm), was installed in 1972 and started producing important astronomical discoveries soon after.
- More than a generation of astronomers were also trained at this telescope. The expertise gained by the engineers also enabled IIA to build the fully indigenous 90-inch (2.34 meter) telescope in the 1980s.