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International observatory planned for Tibet

An international astronomical observatory may be established in Tibet, according to a leading Chinese astronomer quoted by Xinhua news agency on 12 April.

At 5,100 metres above sea level, it would be the highest observatory in the Northern hemisphere.

The location of the planned observatory was recommended by the East Asia Core Observatories Association (EACOA), a grouping of astronomers from China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Yao Yongqiang, chief researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Xinhua that the site, near the town of Shiquanhe, was ideal.

Yao said astronomical telescopes will be installed this year to carry out research on star formation, gamma-ray bursts and other phenomena, and that the observatory should be completed in five years.

Indian media reports said the location, close to the contested Aksai Chin area, will raise eyebrows among Indian security officials. But they also pointed out that it was 100 kilometres from the border and should therefore not be a matter of concern.