National observatory construction at final stage

January 22, 2021 - 16:49

TEHRAN – Iranian National Observatory (INO), which is being built near the city of Kashan, central Isfahan province, enters the final stage of construction and the functional tests begin, IRNA reported on Friday.

The 3.4-meter telescope will be put into operation by mid-June, executor of the INO project, Habib Khosroshahi said.

The domestically-made telescope will be handed over to the National Observatory of Iran after passing the basic motion tests, installation, the software system, and control, he stated.

The main activities of the national observatory include designing, construction, monitoring, and operating the 3.4-meter INO340 telescope, its instruments, and infrastructures. The range of instruments initially planned for the telescope includes a wave-front sensor, auto-guider, imaging CCDs, and a high-resolution spectrograph.

The INO340 telescope is a Ritchey-Chrétien f/11 which provides unvignetted 20 arcmin field of view at the main Cassegrain focus. In addition, 3 bent focuses are also provided each with a field of view of 8 arcmins. The primary mirror is meniscus shaped and the secondary mirror is convex and together they form a well-corrected focus.

The main mirror (M1) is a single-segment fast f/1.5 mirror with a diameter of 3.4m, which makes IN340 one of the most compact telescopes of this size. M1 is a meniscus shape 18 cm thick made of a Zerudor ceramic with a 700mm central hole. The M1 is supported by 60 actuators that are actively or passively controlled to keep the mirror shape undistorted under its own gravity at different points.

INO is a national project and has been envisioned to become an international scientific platform for astronomy in the future. Therefore, educating the general public and especially the younger generation about the basics of astronomy is another important step ahead of the INO project.

An important focus of these activities is the residents close to the area around the INO site whose lifestyles can directly affect the workflow of the INO observatory. So far, about 1,400 students from 22 schools in towns and villages close to the Gargash site have been educated about the basics of astronomy and the effects of light pollution on the INO observatory. Furthermore, the project is using social media to engage the general public with the project.

INO scientists selected Mount Gargash in 2009 after a rigorous eight-year campaign spanning the entire country that measured the atmospheric features that could affect the location of the Iranian National Observatory. Many tasks have been done since then including building a dedicated 11.2 km road connecting the national road network to the summit. The observatory building is currently under construction and is planned to be opened in the next 5 months.

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