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Russian-Cuban laboratory to help trace gravitational waves

December 28, 2017, 15:59 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Russia has no observatories in the Western Hemisphere and that is why many scientists are interested in building this facility in Cuba

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© Yegor Aleyev/TASS

MOSCOW, December 28. /TASS/. The Russian-Cuban observatory expected to be built in Cuba will be equipped with one of the world’s most powerful telescopes to help scientists find the sources of gravitational waves and warn about an asteroid danger, Director of the Astronomy Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences Dmitry Bisikalo told TASS on Thursday.

"The second stage [of the observatory’s construction] involves a big, modern and good telescope of the meter-class. I can call it one of the best existing telescopes in the world. This is a wide-angle meter-class telescope. This is a very good instrument and there are plans to use it for solving a number of most important tasks, in particular, the tasks of the asteroid and comet danger and the search for objects and the sources of gravitational waves, said Bisikalo whose institute has been appointed as the chief contractor for the observatory’s creation.

Russia has no observatories in the Western Hemisphere and that is why many scientists are interested in building this facility in Cuba, the scientist added.

One observatory and one testing range

On the Cuban government’s request, Russia is going to build one observatory and one testing range on the island to carry out applied research and specify the work of space navigation systems, in particular, GLONASS. The Institute of Applied Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences will be responsible for this effort. On Cuba’s behalf, the Institute of Geophysics and Astronomy will be responsible for the observatory’s construction. The project will be financed by both countries.

"The Cuban side has provided a site while our Education and Science Ministry has allocated financing for some works during the first stage. And now we are exploring together with Cuban researchers the possibility of accommodating the observatory and are preparing the infrastructure," Bisikalo said.

However, the construction of this facility will begin only after the relevant agreement is signed between the governments of Russia and Cuba.

"I hope that it will be signed next year," Bisikalo said.

First telescope in the Western Hemisphere

The observatory will be built in two stages. At the first stage, scientists will install a medium-class telescope in it.

"At the first stage, quite a small instrument measuring 20-40 cm will be built to survey the astroclimate on Cuba," Bisikalo said.

Moreover, the telescope can be installed already six months after the agreement is signed and funds are allocated and immediately after this scientists will be able to obtain data from it.

The second stage of the observatory’s construction will begin a year after the project’s official start. Over the period of two years, scientists will install a big telescope. Therefore, three years after launching the project’s implementation, the researchers will be able to obtain first data from the big telescope. At present, both telescopes are ready and are kept in the Astronomy Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"The telescopes are expected to be robotized, i.e. with the minimum participation of humans. The telescopes will be maintained basically by scientists of the Cuban Institute of Geophysics and Astronomy but the scientific results will be processed jointly with scientists from the Cuban and Russian sides," Bisikalo said.

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