By Sanjeev Kulkarni
Econintersect: Located 80 kilometers north of Pune India, the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) is one of the world’s largest array of Radio Telescope antennae. Now Australia plans to build an even larger array telescope, which would become the largest in the world, and wants India to participate. The electronic size of the new astronomy system will be huge: processing power of one billion personal computers and data flow more than 100 times that of global internet traffic, according to the SKA website.SKA is the abbreviation for Square Kilometer Array. However massive this seems, the GMRT is actually spread out over a larger area. From Wikipedia:
The GMRT contains 30 fully steerable telescopes. There are fourteen telescopes randomly arranged in the central square 1 km by 1 km in size, with a further sixteen arranged in three arms of a nearly “Y”-shaped array each having a length of 14 km from the array centre. The GMRT is an interferometer which uses a technique known as aperture synthesis to make images of radio sources.
It is the power of the denser new telescope array that will be the difference from the older technology. It will be so sensitive that it can potentially “be able to detect airport radar on a planet 50 light years away”.
The SKA project is an international €1.5 billion global science project; a partnership between 67 organisations in 20 countries. The partnership is currently led by an international steering committee, the SKA Science and Engineering Committee (SSEC) and a jointly funded head office, the SKA Program Development Office. In April 2011, nine national governmental and research organisations established a Founding Board. Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK signed a Letter of Intent in Rome, declaring their common ambition to see the SKA built, and agreed to work together to secure funding for the next phase of the SKA project. The U.S. is noticeably absent.
The invitation from Australia for India to participate in the SKA project is a natural follow-on to ongoing joint activity. “We want Indian scientists to participate in the prestigious project of world’s largest telescope”, Kim Carr Australian minister for innovation, industry, science and research senator told Indian media. Australian astronomers are regularly using India’s GMRT for observation for the last few years.
The two finalist locations have been narrowed to Australia and South Africa. According to Nicole Gugliucci of Discovery News,
“… both sites are wonderfully suited for the task of being radio-quiet. The site selection will include many other factors, such as infrastructure, or how well each country can support a large research station in the middle of an empty desert.”
Decision on final host country is expected to be taken by 2012.
Sources: SKA website, Wikipedia, Hindustan Times and Discovery News
Sanjeev Kulkarni is an entrepreneur based in Pune, India. He worked for large organizations in board level position before venturing on his own. He is currently involved as an investor in health care software company and as an investor, mentor in an automation company. Very widely traveled, he has experience of working in different geographical areas with people of varying nationalities. He did his BS from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
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