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China, Germany Build Astronomical Observatory in Tibet

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. (Xinhua)

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