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Exploring Herouni’s Radio-Optical Telescope

Explore the Herouni United Space Center nestled in the picturesque village of Orgov, Armenia. The standout jewel in this serene landscape is unquestionably Herouni's Radio-Optical Telescope, destined to leave an enduring impression on you. Additionally, delve into the narrative of Arev, an avant-garde solar thermal power station conceptualized by Paris Herouni amid the energy crisis of the 1990s in Armenia.

For a long time, I dreamed of visiting the Herouni Space Center, and finally, I am here. The site is located in Orgov village, Armenia, at an elevation of around 1700m. The person behind this space center is the Armenian scientist Paris Herouni, who struggled for 17 years to obtain permission from Soviet authorities to build this observatory in Armenia instead of Crimea. Among Herouni’s many projects, the most famous is the First Radio-Optical Telescope (ROT-54/2.6)—a large antenna with a diameter of 54 m (177 ft), boasting one of the best parameters among all large antennas in the world.




Herouni United Space Center as seen from Tegher Monastery


Constructed between 1975 and 1985, the telescope was active from 1986 to 1990 before ceasing operations around 1990. In the mid-1990s, there was a proposal for the restoration of the telescope. Between 1995 and 2010, it underwent modernization with new control computers and feeds, and observations resumed in collaboration with the Astronomical Society of Russia and the National Technical University of Athens.




Me sitting in the control room of ROT-54


However, in 2012, the operations ceased again when a control arm failed, immobilizing the secondary mirror. The Armenian state couldn't cover the cost of repairs, leading to the mothballing of the research complex. Future operation requires further upgrades to the control systems, comprehensive adjustments, replacement of outdated analog sensors with digital ones, and modernization of the data processing systems. According to experts, these upgrades will cost approximately $25 million.




Arev unfinished solar thermal power station designed by Paris Herouni


Arev is an unfinished solar thermal power station designed by Paris Herouni in close proximity to ROT54. In the 1990s, the energy crisis in Armenia and the country’s blockade prompted Paris Herouni to develop and create efficient solar energy systems. In 1991, he presented his "Arev" thermal power plant project, which was protected by 7 international and 2 Armenian copyright patents, proving to be more efficient than other similar international projects. It gained attention from large international organizations and developed countries; however, disputes among investors and Herouni put an end to its further construction.

Today, this place attracts tourists from around the world. For urban explorers visiting Armenia, this place is a must-visit!


 


An aerial view of Herouni Mirror Radio Telescope

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