Tibet likely location for new international astronomical observatory   2012-04-12 18:37:53

LHASA, April 12 (Xinhua) -- A remote area in southwest China's Tibet autonomous region may be chosen as the location for a new international astronomical observatory, a leading astronomer said Thursday in Lhasa.

The planned observatory will enable scientists from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea to build large-scale telescopes and carry out joint research programs, said Yao Yongqiang, chief researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In an interview with Xinhua, Yao said a possible location for the new observatory will be in the mountains of Tibet's Ngari prefecture, at an altitude of 5,100 meters.

The place near the town of Shiquanhe, with easy access to traffic and limited clouds and vapors but high transparency, would be ideal for observation activities and has therefore been recommended by the East Asia Core Observatories Association (EACOA) at a recent meeting in Beijing, he said.

EACOA, comprising astronomers from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Japan and the Republic of Korea, made the recommendation after two years of joint site surveying with the National Astronomical Observatories on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Pamirs Plateau in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Yao said astronomical telescopes will be installed at the Ngari observatory this year to carry out research on planetary science, star formation, gamma-ray bursts and other astronomical projects.

If the location is eventually chosen for the international mission, the Ngari observatory will carry out around-the-clock observations of certain celestial bodies, he said.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has long been a popular location for stargazers. The 13th king of ancient Tibet's Yuyuhun Kingdom, who reigned from 481 to 490 A.D., built an observatory in the remote Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan autonomous prefecture of neighboring Qinghai province.

In China's recent quest to explore the universe, a cosmic ray observatory has been built in the town of Yangbajing in Damxung county, about 90 kilometers from Lhasa.

Editor: Fang Yang
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