For thousands of years, human beings have been constantly observing the universe in order to understand the formation and structures of all celestial bodies such as stars, galaxies, etc., to investigate their interactions with each other, to present all kinds of information and technology to the service of humanity and to have a voice in the world. Basic factors determining the observations made at different wavelengths; observation site (high altitude, infrastructure, distance from light and dust pollution, easy accessibility, transmission, etc.), atmospheric effects (temperature, humidity rate, number of clear nights, wind speed, etc.) and observation tools (telescopes, mirrors, receivers, etc.).). All of the optical telescopes in our country make observations in the visual region. The largest of these telescopes is the 150 cm diameter telescope, established by the Turkish-Russian partnership at the TÜBİTAK National Observatory in Antalya. Since the infrared (IR) wavelength is inherently a record of “heat”, astronomical observations at this wavelength should avoid human and natural sources of heat; in other words, the atmosphere and environmental conditions must be very suitable.
When the atmospheric and astronomical findings obtained within the scope of Scientific Research Projects (Atatürk University – Physics Department, BAP Projects) carried out between 2007 and 2010 and the past and current atmospheric characteristics of the region taken from the General Directorate of Meteorology; it has been understood that Palandöken Mountain (3175 m altitude) and the surrounding Karakaya Hills (3170 m altitude) have a great astronomical potential and are one of the few hills of the world. The basic allocation procedures (2012-2017) of Karakaya Hills (~ 2500 decares) planned as an observatory campus for Atatürk University have been completed. The infrastructural features of the campus (such as road, electricity, water, drilling, seismic and geophysical survey, communication, internet, cable car) have been completed. The distance of Karakaya Hills to both Erzurum city centre and Erzurum Airport is linearly ~ 20 km, and the distance to Atatürk University campus is ~ 10 km linearly. The last few km of the road up to the summit is a double lane stabilized mountain road (can be used for skiing in winter), while the rest of the road is asphalt. There are electricity, internet and water tank and resources at the hill. A four-person cable car line has also been installed from Konaklı Ski Facilities located at the foot of the hills to two separate peaks of Karakaya Hills and is in operation. Since it does not directly see the city of Erzurum and there are hills with a height of ~ 2500 m between it and the city, it is far from light pollution for now and is in the opposite direction to the thriving part of the city, the city is located to the north of the observatory campus. Considering especially the low humidity and wind speed, the stability in the direction of the wind and the number of clear days / nights of Karakaya Hills and its surroundings; the astronomical importance and attractiveness of the region is increasing even more. These hills, selected as campuses, have the potential to accommodate several large-diameter telescopes due to their geographic-topographic features. Evaluating this place, which also has institutional and local support for the establishment of a large observatory, and opening it to astronomy researchers and the scientific world thanks to national and international large-scale projects will help a great contribution to make of our country’s name in the international scientific world. Karakaya Hills are very suitable for observations in the infrared region, which can be made in a limited number of geographies in the world, especially due to their atmospheric and structural features. A geography in these conditions is considered a modern and international observatory if it has a large diameter telescope (4 m diameter) and especially sensitive infrared receivers.
The “Eastern Anatolia Observatory” (DAG) Project, which was prepared for this purpose, was firstly studied in 2011, and the following year was accepted by the Ministry of Development as the main project (2011K120230) in 2012. Scientific, social, economic goals and benefits of the DAG Project; establishing one of the most important scientific research centres opened to the world of space and the development of international cooperation in scientific fields, Turkey’s space science and the training of the manpower needs in terms of technology and the history of science will allow the integration of the scientific and thinkers located the example of a research centre implementation, Turkey’s increasing the number of scientific publications and the introduction of a more respectable status, the first and largest diameter of all the scientists in our country to have the telescope; introducing the region to the world in the fields of history, culture, tourism and sports, contributing to the economy of the region by developing alternative sectors based on knowledge and technology in the Eastern Anatolia Region, increasing the education level of the youth of the region and ensuring that all layers of the society, especially young people, turn to science and technology; with world-renowned foreign scientists may come to the observatory to further enhance the visibility and prestige of Turkey in the international scientific community, to become a scientific convention centre outside of Erzurum cultural and historical conventions; presenting the science of astronomy, which is the source of many branches of science, to the interest and benefit of all segments of the society, increasing the contribution of Palandöken Mountain and Karakaya Hills to winter tourism. Also, Erzurum spatially over the world, Turkey and even the absence of large diameter in the Middle East and around the observatories; due to the fact that some of the existing observatories in the world are exposed to the threat of light and air pollution, it is obvious that a large and modern observatory to be established within the scope of the project will be the centre of attention among international scientists. Thanks to the DAG Project -successfully carried out under the Atatürk University Astrophysics Research and Application Centre Directorate (ATASAM, 2012) with the support of the Ministry of Development and Atatürk University-; by Turkey’s largest-diameter telescope (4 m) -that will make observations in both visual (VIS) and near infrared(NIR, <3 micron) regions – , the establishment of the infrastructures (such as road, electricity, water, internet, seismic, ground) and superstructures (such as telescope, enclosure, observatory – energy – service buildings) of a large observatory where international projects and joint studies in the fields of astronomy, astrophysics and space sciences will be carried out continues (2012- 2019).
DAG Project is a 3-phase project;
- The first stage is the DAG Project (2012 – 2019), which consists of the establishment of an observatory with telescope, enclosure, buildings and infrastructure,
- The second phase is the ODA Project (2016 – 2019), which consists of the acquisition, design, construction of Focal Plane Instruments (ODA) and the establishment of an Optics Laboratory,
- The third stage is the AKS Project (2018 – 2020), which consists of the Mirror Coating System (AKS) where all mirror and space – satellite equipment up to 4 m will be coated.
- DAG Observatory which is located in the pearl of Anatolia -Erzurum- has Turkey’s first and largest infrared telescope…