Kodaikanal Solar Observatory celebrates 125 years of unveiling Sun’s secrets

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New Delhi: The Kodaikanal Solar Observatory (KSO) commemorated its 125th anniversary on 1 April, 2024. The observatory is nestlled within the Palani range in southern India, at distance of about four kilometres from Kodaikanal. The facility was established as a solar physics observatory in 1899 by the Britishers. The British recognised the requirement for an observatory to better understand how the behaviour of the Sun influenced monsoon patterns in india.

The location was chosen because of its high altitude and a dust-free environment. The observatory has collected the oldest continuous series of solar observations in India. The observatory has been recording daily images of the Sun. The KSO houses a repository of 1.2 lakh digitised images, and is publicly available to astronomers around the world.

The Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) operates and manages the KSO as a field station. AS Kiran Kumar, former chairman of ISRO launched a booklet detailing the rich history of the observatory, and highlighting the research conducted. 1 April is also celebrated as the foundation day of IIA, which was established as an institution under the Department of Science and Technology in 1971. Kumar also delivered a lecture on the Indian Space Programme.

The IIA has planned a number of events in the months ahead to highlight the legacy of the observatory, its history, the science returns and ongoing research. The observatory has been focusing on improving the understanding of prominences and solar flares. The proposed National Large Solar Telescope in Ladakh is expected to build on the legacy of KSO.

The Evershed effect

In January 1909, British astronomer John Evershed discovered that the spectral lines of sunspots exhibited a doppler shift, suggesting a radial flow of glass across the the outer region of sunspots, known as the penumbra. Gas was observed to be flowing from the dark, inner regions of the sunspots towards the edges. The phenomenon is known as the Evershed effect, and is one of the research highlights of KSO.

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