The current research and training capabilities in observational astronomy in Iran is unable to meet the growing demand due to a rapid growth in higher education over the past two decades. While almost every big university in Iran has an astronomy department or group, the existing observational facilities consists of a number of small telescopes in various university campus observatories generally used for undergraduate and graduate training.
A medium size optical telescope is thought to be a step to facilitate research in astronomy and observational cosmology. The geographic location of Iran, 32N 53E, relative dry climate and high altitude mountains, offer suitable locations for optical telescopes to carry out surveys and time critical observations. Site selection study for a proposed medium class telescope started few years before the INO project received administrative approval.
At the present the flagship of the INO observing facilities is a 3.4m optical telescope under construction.
History of Iranian National Observatory Project
2001 Site selection studies begin
2003 4 sites selected for long-term monitoring
2004 Cabinet approves the project
Parliament allocates budget code
2006 IPM hosts INO project
2007 Site selection concludes with Gargash and Dinava
2008 Site monitoring begins in Gargash and Dinava
2009 Vice-presidency for Science and Technology provides financial support
Primary mirror ordered
2012 Conceptual design approved
2012 Road Construction begins
2013 Detail design begins
2014 Primary mirror is delivered to INO
2016 Secondary mirror ordered
Road construction complete
2017 Science operation begins
Enclosure and site construction begins