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China, Germany build astronomical observatory in Tibet

October 14, 2009

Editor: Lin Liyu (P.R. of China)
October 13, 2009

LHASA, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- Chinese and German scientists are
establishing an astronomical observatory in a Tibetan county 4,300
meters above sea level.

Construction of the observatory began on Monday in Yangbajain
Township, of Damxung County in the suburbs of Tibet's regional
capital Lhasa, said project leader Wang Junjie Tuesday.

The observatory would be operational in early 2011, after a
state-of-the-art telescope was moved to the Tibet plateau from its
current site in the Swiss Alps, said Wang, a researcher with the
National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of
Sciences (CAS), in Beijing.

Wang and his colleagues are establishing the observatory in
collaboration with scientists from the University of Cologne.

The project will enable Chinese and German scientists to carry out
interdisciplinary research.

"Tibet is an ideal location because the water deficit in its air
ensures superb atmospheric transparency and creates a comparatively
stable environment for research in the areas of astrophysics,
high-energy and atmospheric physics," said Yan Jun, director of the
CAS National Astronomical Observatories.

"The observatory would house a KOSMA 3-meter sub-millimeter-wave
telescope, the first of its kind to be used in general astronomical
observation in China," said Yan.

The telescope would be moved next year from Gornergrat, in
Switzerland, at an altitude of 3,200 meters, he said.

The Tibet observatory was expected to be operational after the
telescope was installed, tested and calibrated, Yan said.

"It will boost China's research capacity in sub-millimeter astronomy
and will hopefully provide a platform for astronomical experiments
and training on the plateau and in the polar regions," he said.

Sub-millimeter astronomy refers to astronomical observations carried
out in the region of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelengths
from approximately 0.3 to 1 millimeter.

China is yet to build its own sub-millimeter-wave astronomical
telescope for general research.
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