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Vainu Bappu Observatory
Vainu Bappu Observatory, an astronomical observatory owned and operated by Indian Institute of Astrophysics is located at Kavalur in the Javadi Hills, near Vaniyambadi in Vellore district of Tamil Nadu state.
Vainu Bappu Observatory – Kavalur Observatory
The Vainu Bappu Observatory (VBO), was established in the 1970s, and contains the 1m Carl Zeiss Telescope, and the 2.3m Vainu Bappu telescope.
It traces its beginning back to the year of 1786 when William Petrie set up his private observatory at his garden house at Egmore, Madras, which eventually came to be known as the Madras Observatory. Later it moved to Kodaikanal and functioned there as the Kodaikanal Observatory since 1899.
M.K. Vainu Bappu who became the Director of the Kodaikanal Observatory in 1960, found a quiet petite hamlet called Kavalur in the Javadu Hills as an apt site for setting up optical telescopes to watch celestial objects. This came to be known as Kavalur Observatory.
The Kavalur Observatory is positioned in a 100-acre forest land in Tamil Nadu which is spotted with a diversity of foliage of tropical region besides a number of curative plants with a rare form of some wildlife like deer, snakes and scorpions.
Several species of birds have also been dotted in the campus. The observatory is at an altitude of 725m above mean sea level.
Vainu Bappu’s 2.3 metre aperture telescope designed and built within the country. Bappu died in 1982 and would not see the completion of this telescope.
In a tribute, the then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi, at a function held at Kavalur on 6 January 1986, named the observatory as Vainu Bappu Observatory and the 2.3 metre telescope as Vainu Bappu Telescope, the largest telescope in Asia.
Along with the Vainu Bappu telescope, the observatory has two other telescopes: A 1 meter Zeiss manufactured and another 75 centimeter cassegrain reflector currently being renovated. The observatory also has a Fabry–Pérot interferometer.
The 1 metre telescope is associated with two unique discoveries in the solar system. In the year 1972, atmosphere was detected around Jupiter’s satellite Ganymede and in the year 1977, participated in the observations that confirmed rings were discovered around the planet Uranus.
In 1984, Kavalur reported the discovery of a thin outer ring around Saturn.
On 17 February 1988, a new minor planet was discovered using the 45 cm Schmidt telescope.
It has been named 4130 Ramanujan after the Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. This is the first such discovery from India in the 20th century.