I remember the first time I saw Jupiter and its moons through a telescope that could fit in my backpack, I was spellbound! Four tiny off-white bokeh dots around a bigger dot in a jet black background, it wasn't a sharp image but it felt incredibly amazing looking at a planet in our solar system with its moons which were more than 500 million kilometers away! So when I got the opportunity to visit one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world that too in Ladakh, I was ecstatic and I wondered if we could see planets, stars or distant galaxies through the telescope at the observatory!
Did you know one of the world's highest sites for optical, infrared and gamma ray telescopes is in India?
At an altitude of 4500 meters the Himalayan Chandra Telescope at Hanle in Ladakh is the 3 rd highest in the world! Located less than 20 km from the Line of Actual control (LAC) with China, Hanle in Changthang is a high altitude cold desert in the Himalayas. ( Read about our adventures on the road getting to Hanle)
Getting there: Accessible on road from Mood, Hanle requires a permit to visit that can be obtained from Leh.
Leh - Hemis Monastery - Chang La pass - Tangtse - Chushul - Rezang La - Mood - Hanle (about 320 km on Google Maps)
It's a collective effort from various telescopes placed in different parts of the world, to see stars or galaxies from the earth, and at Hanle in Ladakh is one such observatory in the northern hemisphere. A cold high altitude desert, Hanle is ideal for astronomy not only in the visible band but also in the infrared and high-energy gamma rays. Riding up to Mount Saraswati, (named after the Hindu Goddess of learning), another telescope the High Altitude Gamma Ray Telescope (HAGAR) that has 7 telescopes, six on the periphery of a 50 meters radius circle and one at the centre, at the base of the mountain came in view.