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3rd January 2024 (10 Topics)

Another eye in sky, on ground: India is now part of world’s largest radio telescope project

Context

India, through the Pune-based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics and some other institutions, has been involved in the development of Square Kilometre Array Observatory since its inception in the 1990s

A Giant Leap in Astrophysics:  India, through institutions like the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), has joined the international mega-science project, the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO). The SKAO, the world's largest radio telescope, marks a significant milestone in India's participation in cutting-edge astrophysics.

Key Highlights

SKAO Overview

  • Array of Antennas: The SKAO is not a single telescope but an array of thousands of antennas.
  • Global Locations: Installed in remote radio-quiet locations in South Africa and Australia, it operates as one large unit to observe and study celestial phenomena.

India's Involvement in SKAO:

  • Historical Involvement: India has been involved in the development of SKA since the 1990s.
  • Intergovernmental Organization: SKAO was established as an intergovernmental organization in 2021, with India actively participating in the negotiations.

Government Approval and Financial Sanction:

  • First Step Towards Ratification: India's government approval to join SKAO, with a financial sanction of Rs 1,250 crore, is the initial step towards formal ratification.
  • Department of Atomic Energy's Announcement: The approval was announced by the Department of Atomic Energy in its 2023 year-ending note.

Scientific Significance of SKAO

  • Gravitational Wave Research: Similar to LIGO, SKAO will search for gravitational waves, but its scope extends to studying a range of celestial phenomena, allowing a deeper exploration of the universe.
  • Unprecedented Depth: SKAO can peer more than 3,000 trillion km into the universe, enabling detailed studies of galaxies and stars.

India's Contribution to SKAO

  • Telescope Manager Element: India's main contribution lies in the development and operation of the Telescope Manager element, the crucial software that drives SKAO.
  • NCRA's Expertise: NCRA, known for operating India's largest radio telescope network (GMRT), led the international team to develop the software.

Success of GMRT

  • IEEE Milestone Recognition: GMRT, operated by NCRA, earned recognition as only the third facility in India to receive the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Milestone in 2021.
  • Scientific Achievements: GMRT's operational success has led to significant scientific results in studying pulsars, supernovae, quasars, and galaxies.

SKA-India Consortium: The SKA-India consortium involves engineers and scientists from over 20 national-level research institutions, including IIT-Kharagpur, IISER, TIFR, and others.

Global Collaboration: Countries such as the UK, Australia, South Africa, Canada, China, France, Italy, and Germany are part of the global effort to build SKAO, showcasing the collaboration in cutting-edge astrophysics.

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