Brief History

The IUCAA 2-metre optical and near-infrared telescope was dedicated to the astronomical community in India by Professor Yash Pal on May 13, 2006 at the Chandrasekhar Auditorium in IUCAA. This was preceded by the inauguration of the IUCAA-Girawali Observatory which houses the telescope, and is located about 80 kms. from Pune near Junnar. The telescope will be used by the faculty and students in IUCAA and in various university departments and colleges, as well as by astronomers in research institutions and observatories. The telescope is a first class research instrument with which objects within our galaxy as well as the extra-galactic universe can be observed.

History : After IUCAA was set-up in 1988, it quickly became well known for research in theoretical astrophysics, cosmology and in observational astronomy. Observational work at IUCAA was carried out using optical and other telescopes located in India and other countries in the world, as well as in space. However, in spite of its growing reputation in the observational area, IUCAA did not have its own telescope. A proposal was therefore made to set up a state-of-the-art, medium sized optical telescope at a suitable site relatively close to Pune. It was believed that such a telescope would provide the much needed observational facilities, for research and training, to the university community. The proposal was supported by the Governing Board and the Council of IUCAA as well as the University Grants Commission, which provided the funds needed for the project.

A contract was signed in 1996 with the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) of the United Kingdom for supply of a 2-metre telescope by the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO) in Britain. Following the closure of the RGO the task of making the telescope was transferred by PPARC to Telescope Technologies Ltd. (TTL), then a unit of the Liverpool John Moores University.

Telescope : During the construction of the telescope, astronomers and technical personnel from IUCAA worked in close collaboration with engineers from TTL to develop specifications for the telescope, and parameters for the observatory, the telescope enclosure and the complex instruments used in observations. Teams from the two organizations have closely worked together to produce an excellent telescope which works to the exacting standards needed for sophisticated astronomical observations. The same collaborative approach was used in the installation and calibration of the telescope until it was handed over to the IUCAA team in February 2006.

Instruments : The main instrument for observations at the telescope at the present time is IFOSC, which is a versatile instrument which can be used for obtaining images as well as spectroscopic and polarimetric observations. This instrument was developed for IUCAA at Copenhagen University Observatory, and again people from IUCAA were closely involved with the project at all its stages. The calibration unit for IFOSC was developed at IUCAA. There are also instruments like a CCD camera available for observations, and other sophisticated instruments, including an infrared imager, will be made available soon.

The Site : The IUCAA-Girawali Observatory is located near Junnar at an altitude of about 1000 metres. The site was chosen keeping in mind the demands of weather and atmospheric conditions necessary for quality astronomical observations. Proximity to IUCAA has been an important consideration since it allows easy access for operation and maintenance. The short distance also makes it very convenient for the many observers from IUCAA and the universities to travel to the telescope for observations.

  Photographs of Telescope Installation  
  Progress of Installation  
  Dedication Ceremony Photographs