India Joins Global Initiative with Approval for SKA Observatory Participation

  • 04 Jan 2024

As ISRO launches a cutting-edge observatory for X-rays and black hole study and gears up for the construction of LIGO's third node in Maharashtra, India embarks on another significant venture—joining the international mega-science project, the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO), the world's largest radio telescope.

Key Points

  • Multinational Collaboration: India, represented by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) and other institutions, becomes a key participant in the SKAO, a collective effort involving thousands of antennas situated in remote locations in South Africa and Australia.
  • Long-standing Involvement: India's association with SKA dates back to the 1990s, with the NCRA playing a pivotal role in its development.
  • The SKAO was established as an intergovernmental organization in 2021, with India actively engaging in negotiations and signing the convention.
  • Formal Approval Process: Countries, including India, need to sign and ratify the SKAO convention to become official members.
  • India's approval, with a financial sanction of Rs 1,250 crore, marks the initial step toward formal ratification, emphasizing the nation's commitment to collaborative scientific endeavours.
  • Parallel Advancements: The announcement aligns with India's recent consent for constructing LIGO's third node, reinforcing the country's pursuit of cutting-edge research in gravitational wave studies.
  • Scope of SKA: Unlike LIGO's focus on gravitational waves, the SKA aims to delve deeper into the universe, spanning over 3,000 trillion km.
  • India's Contribution: The primary contribution from India lies in the development and operation of the Telescope Manager element, particularly the software that drives the telescope's functioning.
  • NCRA, known for operating the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), led the international effort in developing this critical software.
  • GMRT's Success: GMRT, recognized globally for its achievements and scientific contributions, played a pivotal role in securing the responsibility for developing SKA's software.
  • Global Participants: Apart from India, countries such as the UK, Australia, South Africa, Canada, China, France, Italy, and Germany are actively contributing to the SKA project, emphasizing its international significance in advancing the frontiers of radio astronomy and scientific exploration.