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The Astronomical Observatory in Vellore

The Indian Institute of Astrophysics owns and oversees general operations at Vainu Bappu Observatory - an astronomical observatory in Vellore. It is located in the Javadi hills at Kavalur near Vaniyambadi in Vellore district (Tamil Nadu).


Vainu Bappu Observatory
Indian Institute of Astrophysics
Kavalur, Alangayam 635 701
Vellore District, Tamil Nadu, India
Phone: 91 (04174) 203014
E-Mail: webmaster@iiap.res.in
Timings: Open to Public on Saturdays (2.00 P.M. to 5 P.M.)

Distance of Observatory from Other Cities

  • Distance from Chennai: 200 Kms.
  • Distance from Bangalore: 175 Kms.
  • Distance from Alangayam: 11 Kms.

Vainu Bappu Observatory


Visiting Vainu Bappu Observatory

Deciding to visit an observatory speaks volumes about your interest in science! Well, you have chosen just the right place as many, many surprises await you. First of all, the sight of a real telescope will bring in all the enthusiasm and energy you need to know the rest of this place.

And... can you imagine that you will be shown the operation of Vainu Bappu Telescope! Yes, you read right. You will be able to witness the night sky through a 15 cms visitor telescope. This program was suspended for sometime though. However, for seeing the night sky, you need to be lucky to have a clear sky that night.

Setting up of Vainu Bappu Observatory near Vellore

In 1786, William Petrie set up his private observatory at his garden house at Egmore, Madras. This was later known as the Madras Observatory. The Madras Observatory was moved to Kodaikanal in the year 1899 and was known as the Kodaikanal Observatory.

The problem with having the observatory in Kodaikanal was that here there were very few nights available for the purpose of observation. after India became independent in 1947, astronomers started searching for yet another site for their experiments and observations.

During this time, M.K. Vainu Bappu became the Director of Kodaikanal Observatory in 1960. He zeroed in on Kavalur in the Javadu Hills as the apt site for establishing optical telescopes in order to observe celestial objects. The Observatory was constructed here and came to be known as Kavalur Observatory. In 1968, a 38 cm telescope was made in the backyard of the Kodaikanal Observatory and observations started in the Observatory.

Telescope in VBO in Kavalur

Why was Kavalur Chosen for the Observatory

Kavalur was surrounded with green trees on all sides and was a sleepy hamlet. It was reasonably away from industrial areas to avoid polluted skies. The best reason was that it was closer to the Earth's equator and could cover both the northern and southern hemispheres with equal ease. The longitudinal position of Kavalur is also such that it is the only major astronomical facility between Australia and South Africa for the observation of southern objects. In the year 1972,  a 1 metre (40 inches) telescope which was made by Carl Zeiss Jena was installed at Kavalur.

In 1982, Vainu Bappu died and could not see the completion of the 2.3 metre (93 inch) aperture telescope. The observatory was named as  Vainu Bappu Observatory to pay the legendary scientist a befitting tribute. The Vainu Bappu Telescope can even resolve a 25 paisa coin kept forty kilometers away! It is also utilized to carry out deep sky observations.

More About Vainu Bappu Observatory in Vellore

Do you know that Vainu Bappu Telescope is the largest telescope in India? It was first used in 1986 and has a diameter of 2.3 metres!

Here, you will find many  more telescopes too - A 1 meter Zeiss manufactured telescope which in 1972 detected atmosphere around Jupiter's satellite Ganymede. This same telescope in 1977, discovered rings around planet Uranus. a thin outer ring around Sarurn was also observed from the Vainu Bappu Observatory.

There is yet another telescope which is 75 centimeter cassegrain reflector. In 1988, a new minor planet was discovered using the 45 cm Schmidt telescope. This telescope is called 4130 Ramanujam who was a renowned mathematician.

How to Reach Vainu Bappu Observatory

The nearest airport is Bangalore airport which is well connected with all other major cities like Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata.

Vaniyambadi Railway station is 29 kms. and Jolarpettai Railway station is 46 kms. from Vainu Bappu Observatory.

The observatory is located near village Kavalur and from Bangalore, it can be reached via Hosur->Krishnagiri->Vaniyambadi->Alangayam->Kavalur.

So, are you ready for your scientific expedition to Vainu Bappu Observatory? Well, now you know that every minute spent here will be educative and inspiring!

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