The Hanle telescope tops by 200m the highest so far, the Meyer-Womble Observatory in the US, operated by the University of Denver, deep in the Rocky Mountains. For astronomers, the observatory’s height is crucial since the higher you go, the lesser the aberrations caused by earth’s atmosphere.
The very clear nights with low water vapour and the light, pollution-free environment of Hanle make it an ideal site for housing the national facility. Astronomers always aspire to site their best instruments in locations where few humans would want to tread. And Mount Saraswati in Hanle, at a towering altitude of 4,500m, is certainly one place in the cold barren desert of Ladakh few people venture to. It takes a good 10 hours of steady driving from Leh to reach this facility, which is today the darling of many international astronomers.