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World-class observatory planned in Tibet
Updated: 2005-01-11 21:21

A top astronomer says China may build a world-class observatory in the southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region, better known as the "spine of the world."

A file photo shows local residents pose for photograph in the Ngari Prefecture of Tibet on April 27, 2004. [newpshoto]
A preliminary survey has found the Sengge Zangbo town in Ngari Prefecture, western Tibet, may be the ideal place to launch the world's largest and most advanced telescope with a calibre of up to 100 metres, said Ai Guoxiang, who heads the National Astronomical Observatories.

"The crown of the 21st century's ground-based astronomy will be on China if further investigation finds the same results," said Ai, also an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

An alternative location for the new observatory could be Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Northwest China, he added.

Chinese astronomers will carry out observations from fixed positions in these two places for a year or two before the final decision is made, Ai said.

"When the location is confirmed, we suggest China co-operates with some countries in building an optical/infrared telescope with a calibre of 10 metres," he said.

The astronomer said China is also considering building a new generation telescope with a calibre between 30 and 100 metres with international co-operation. "On whose basis we'll build the observatory," he said.

Such a large telescope will make furthest parts of the universe visible to the human eye and help unravel some of the mysteries of the origins of celestial bodies and the entire universe, said He Jinxin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The researcher said the Tibetan town of Sengge Zangbo is an ideal location because it is on the "roof of the world" and surrounded by mountains 4,800 metres above sea level. It is quiet, dry and usually has clear night skies.

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