A decade of stargazing on top of the world

* The Ngari Observatory in Tibet celebrated its 10th year on the “roof of the world”, continuing the endless exploration of the sky by the Chinese people.

* Thanks to Ngari’s fine and clean atmosphere with much less smoke, dust and water vapour, and low rainfall, the observatory is the highest and best astronomical observation point in the northern hemisphere.

* With the country’s first dark night park offering star gazing, Ngari has become a popular destination for tourists interested in star gazing and photography.

LHASA, June 10 (Xinhua) — When gazing at the stars from Ngari Observatory on a dark night, it is natural to remember the wise words of German philosopher Immanuel Kant: “Two things fill the mind of ‘ever-increasing wonder and admiration ..the starry skies above me and the moral law within me.’

The observatory, located 5,100 meters above sea level in southwestern China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, celebrated its 10th year on the “roof of the world”, continuing endless exploration from heaven by the Chinese people.

Twenty years ago, the National Astronomical Observatories (NAO) launched a major scientific research program to select an astronomical site in western China. Ten years ago, they set their sights on Ngari prefecture in western Tibet.

Thanks to its fine and clean atmosphere with much less smoke, dust and water vapour, and low rainfall, Ngari is the ideal place for astronomers to gaze at the stars and the distant universe.

“Despite its high altitude and harsh natural environment, Ngari has the richest conditions for space and astronomical observation because it is so close to the stars,” said NAO researcher Yao Yongqiang.

In 2012, high-level experts from China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and France agreed that initial results from the Ngari Observatory promise to become one of the best infrared and submillimeter observing sites in the world. world. When completed, it is now the observatory with the highest altitude and the best astronomical observation point in the northern hemisphere.

A series of international and state cooperation projects, including quantum teleportation experiments, a program for detecting primordial gravitational waves, space debris, and time-domain astronomical observations, have been initiated at the site, yielding remarkable scientific achievements, according to Chen Ding, the chief scientist. at the observatory.

A team of Chinese scientists are building the world’s tallest primordial gravitational wave observatory, aiming to make the first precise measurements of primordial gravitational waves in the northern hemisphere and capture the “first cry” of the birth of the universe.

Ngari Observatory is also an important node of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT), currently the world’s largest observing network for astronomical research, in its Hemisphere Observing Network north.

STARBOOKING TOURISM

In November 2018, an astronomical science popularization base was unveiled at Ngari Observatory.

The base is designed to be a unique center for the popularization and teaching of astronomical sciences by taking advantage of the good observation conditions of the Ngari Observatory and its research and innovation capacity.

With the country’s first dark night park offering star gazing, Ngari has become a popular destination for tourists interested in star gazing and photography.

“The moon pictures I took with my smartphone are as good as NASA’s,” joked Yang Feng, a local official who is a photographer himself. “From here, you can not only gaze at the stars, but also see passing satellites. Even the reflectors and antennas of the satellites are clearly visible.”

The park has six refracting and reflecting telescopes and offers a special platform for photographers.

An astronomical science popularization online platform has also been established, allowing astronomy enthusiasts around the world to observe the night sky in Tibet in real time through a remote-controlled telescope.

On June 21, 2020, some 200 million people observed a grandiose natural phenomenon – an annular solar eclipse – on live streaming platforms through cooperation with the Ngari Observatory. “The eclipses on set definitely look more spectacular,” read one comment online.

With an increasing number of tourists, the Night Park has become a highlight of Ngari Plateau tourism.

“As the night draws closer, the place becomes a mysterious dark world, and the stars are the only protagonists,” said a tourist. “The starry sky has been shining for thousands of years. There’s nothing on my mind now but the stars and the universe.