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Kazakhstan steps up space research 24 июля 2014, 16:47

The Tian Shan Astronomical Observatory in the mountains near Almaty, Kazakhstan has completed modernising its two telescopes.
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Radio telescope of the Institute of Ionosphere. ©tengrinews.kz Radio telescope of the Institute of Ionosphere. ©tengrinews.kz

The Tian Shan Astronomical Observatory in the mountains near Almaty, Kazakhstan has finished modernising its two telescopes, Tengrinews reports referring to Alexander Gubert, a representative of Kazakhstan’s National Center for Space Research and Technologies, a subsidiary of KazKosmos National Space Agency.

The Tian Shan Astronomical Observatory founded in 1957 is located high in the beautiful mountains of Tian Shan mountain chain near Big Almaty Lake, 30 km from Almaty city at the altitude of 2735 m above the sea level. In 1994-2008, it was a part of Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute, Kazakhstan’s major scientific organization for fundamental research in astronomy and astrophysics. Now it is part of Kazakhstan’s National Center for Space Research and Technologies. 

After the breakdown of the Soviet Union and its scientific base in 1991, none of observatory’s 1-meter telescopes were in working order, because the telescopes' control system was outdated and there were no space parts to repair it, Alexander Gubert explained.

In 2013, the observatory completed modernization and automation of its East 1-m telescope, and in late spring of 2014 it completed the work on its second 1-m telescope, called West.

Now both telescopes have an up-to-date control system that includes remote control. The remote control of telescopes via the Internet has already been successfully tested. The observatory has already carried out some work using the new equipment. This includes observation of exoplanets (extrasolar planets), and a study of faint stars in the Milky Way that resulted in discovery of a total of 20 variable stars, study of eclipsing stars, recording of afterglow of gamma-ray bursts and many other projects.

Alexander Gubert assured that modernization of the telescopes at the Tian Shan Observatory would serve to boost the development of Kazakhstan's science. "We have produced the results that could not been achieved using smaller telescopes. (...) Besides, the modernisation of the telescopes enabled us to deepen cooperation with other countries. Astronomy is a science, and it can not be explored by one country alone, because we monitor objects along different meridians. For example, tonight China is watch something, then we pick it, after that goes Europe, Canary Islands, America, Japan and China again. Then this data is included in the single international data base. We use their data, they use ours. Earlier we had nothing to give them, but now, thanks to these two telescopes, we can provide the data . (...) They are interested in us as we are interested in them. The work is becoming more active," Alexander Gubert said.

The Tian Shan Observatory is now in a good working order, "which enables us to make astrophysical observations at a high scientific level and collect data of the required quality".

In the near future the Tian Shan Observatory is planning to install an automated telescope of 50cm in diameter in collaboration with the South Korean Institute for Astronomy and Space Sciences. It will be linked to the four similar telescopes in Mongolia, South Africa, Australia and Turkey and will become part of the global network of small telescopes. The network will enable the scientists to cover the whole night sky and continuously observe its objects.

The Tian Shan Observatory and the nearby Cosmostation is a favourite tourist destination in Almaty. Its location near the Big Almaty Lake make the Tien-Shan Observatory especially attractive for tourists.

However, not long ago the facility was fenced off and even surrounded by barbed wire. According to Alexander Gubert this was done because the observatory was included into the list of strategic facilities in Kazakhstan. "Secondly, we mostly observe feeble stars there and any lights can adversely affect the scientific results obtained. Third, astronomers there, like in any other observatory around the world, usually work at night, so during the day they need to have a good rest. For this reason, presence of unauthorized persons in the Tian Shan Observatory is undesirable,“ he explained.

Reporting by Vladimir Prokopenko, writing by Assel Satubaldina, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina

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