ISRO Missions and Discoveries

IAO Hanle: A promising astronomical observatory


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IAO Hanle

Mains level: NA

A new study shows that the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) located in Hanle is one of the emerging sites for infrared and optical astronomy studies.

About IAO Hanle

  • The IAO, located in Hanle at Mount Saraswati near Leh in Ladakh, has one of the world’s highest located sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes.
  • It was established in 2001 and is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore.
  • It is currently the ninth highest optical telescope in the world, situated at an elevation of 4,500 meters.

Note: University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory (TAO) located in the Atacama desert of Chile is the highest at an elevation of 5,640 m.

Major telescopes at Hanle include:

  1. Himalayan Chandra Telescope (An optical-infrared telescope named after India-born Nobel laureate Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar)
  2. GROWTH-India Telescope (A robotic optical telescope)
  3. High Altitude Gamma Ray Telescope

Distinct factors of IAO Hanle

  • IAO Hanle offers a clear view of space among all observatories globally.
  • This is due to its advantages of more clear nights, minimal light pollution, background aerosol concentration, extremely dry atmospheric condition and uninterrupted monsoon.
  • Hanle site is as dry as Atacama Desert in Chile and much drier than Devasthal and has around 270 clear nights in a year and is also one of the emerging sites for infrared and submillimetre optical astronomy.
  • This is because water vapor absorbs electromagnetic signals and reduces their strength.


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