Another eye in sky, on ground: India is now part of world’s largest radio telescope project
Science & Technology
6th Jan, 2024
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.
- 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.