Makeover for India's biggest telescope to improve clarity

Makeover for India's biggest telescope to improve clarity

Makeover for India's biggest telescope to improve clarity

India’s biggest telescope near Pune has just received a makeover that will help scientists to scan the edge of the universe with more clarity, looking for telltale signs of unknown esoteric cosmic objects dotting the baby universe.

The Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope (GMRT) near Pune has been upgraded with new front-end and back-end systems, components and advanced electronics increasing its sensitivity by three times. It also received round-the-clock power supply. The upgraded telescope was thrown open to the researchers on Sunday by Govind Swarup, the “grand old man” of Indian astronomy.

It was Swaup’s brain, that was behind the concept, design and installation of India’s first radio telescope at Ooty and GMRT, which played a pivotal role in discovering new facets of the universe, invisible to optical telescopes.

Spread over 30 sq km of area around Khodad, near Narayangaon town of Pune district, GMRT is the world’s largest radio telescope facility operating at low frequencies. It comprises 30 fully steerable, 45 metre diameter antennas, which captures radio signals and sends them to the research centre, where these signals are decoded.

Designed in the 1990s, the telescope has been in operation since 2002 and is used by astronomers across the world for cutting edge research on astronomy and astrophysics. It scans the sky at radio frequencies and tries to discover new cosmic objects based on the signals it receives.

The Rs 60-crore upgradation package for GMRT will increase the telescope’s sensitivity by three times and keep it on the forefront of the international scenario in the field for many more years to come.

“It will help scientists scan for the signs of galaxy up to the edge of the universe,” C H Ishwara Chandra, one of the scientists at National Centre for Radio Astronomy, Pune and a regular user of GMRT told Deccan Herald.

“With the upgradation, we can look further deep and see the universe in very old age. The upgraded telescope now provides wider bandwidth to observe the baby universe,” said Dipanjan Mitra, another scientists from NCRA, who operates the telescope.In the first phase, 8-15 antennas were fitted with new components. The entire work was expected to be completed by 2015, Chandra said.

Over the years, Indian astronomers used GMRT to find pulsars (pulsating stars) and observe hidden cosmic objects emitting radio-waves. The make-over will increase the telescope’s utility and bring it on a par with other global telescopes, which can now be linked with GMRT for seamless observations from two corners of the globe.