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Udaipur Solar Observatory

Posted on 05-Feb-2016 06:04 PM

Multi Application Solar Telescope (MAST), a telescope for the detailed study of the Solar activity including its magnetic field, has recently been operationalised at the Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO) of Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), an autonomous unit of the Department of Space.   MAST is an off-axis Gregorian-Coude telescope with a 50 cm aperture.

PRL is a premier research institute engaged in basic research in the areas of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Solar Physics, Planetary Science and Exploration, Space and Atmospheric Sciences, Geosciences and Theoretical Physics. Apart from the main campus at Ahmedabad, there are two other campuses at Mt. Abu and Udaipur, hosting the Infrared Telescope and a Multi-Application-Solar Telescope (MAST), respectively. The planetary exploration (PLANEX) programme and the astronomy group are housed in the fourth campus at Thaltej, close to Ahmedabad.

The USO is situated on an island in the middle of the Lake Fatehsagar of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. The sky conditions at Udaipur are quite favourable for solar observations. The large water body surrounding the telescopes decreases the amount of heating of the surface layers. This decreases the turbulence in the air mass and thereby improves the image quality and seeing. The main objective of obtaining the high spatial and temporal resolution observations of solar photospheric and chromospheric activity is to understand the various dynamic phenomena occurring on the surface of the Sun.

The recently operationalised Multi Application Solar Telescope’s dome is a collapsible dome made of tensile fabric.  Built by Mechanical and Optical Systems (AMOS) of Belgium, MAST was tested by USO for onsite acceptance. Test results accumulated over a year was examined by a committee of experts and telescope was made operationalised  on June 16, 2015. 

The back-end instruments of MAST, developed in-house at USO, include an adaptive optics system and a narrow band imaging polarimeter using a tandem Fabry-Perot etalon pair and LCVR polarimetric module. Another instrument, viz., a spectropolarimeter, has been developed at ISRO Satellite Centre and will be soon deployed at MAST.

MAST will be used to measure vector magnetic fields of active regions at different heights of the solar atmosphere. It will also be used to study seismic effects of solar flares. Some test images taken during the trial runs of MAST are shown in Figures, which include images taken with H-alpha and G-band filters.