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125 years of Kodaikanal Solar Observatory

Why is it in the news?

  • The Kodaikanal Solar Observatory (KoSO) celebrated its 125th anniversary.

More about the news

  • The observatory was conceived in response to the Great Drought of 1876, one of the worst droughts experienced by India.
  • The drought, causing extensive famine and loss of life, prompted the British Raj to investigate the correlation between solar activity and seasonal rainfall distribution.
  • Charles Michie Smith, a Professor of Physics at the Madras Christian College, was tasked with identifying an ideal site for the solar observatory.
  • After extensive surveys, Kodaikanal in the Palani hills of Tamil Nadu was chosen as the optimal location due to favourable atmospheric conditions.
  • The Government of India sanctioned the establishment of the Solar Physics Observatory in Kodaikanal in August 1893.
  • Lord Wenlock, the then Governor of Madras, laid the foundation stone of the observatory in 1895.
  • Systematic observations at KoSO began in 1901, focusing initially on solar physics and later expanding into other areas such as cosmic rays and radio astronomy.
  • The observatory was merged with the Madras Observatory in 1899, consolidating resources and expertise.
  • Today, KoSO is managed by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and continues to play a crucial role in solar research, housing advanced instruments and a vast digital repository of solar images spanning over a century.

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