Page 37 - April 2021
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         Tale of a
As Pune’s GMRT becomes the third Indian IEEE Milestone, here’s a look at the global impact of one of the largest radio observatories in the world
GMRT antennas at night
 n Prof Yashwant Gupta
It was in 1895 that a young scientist by the name of Jagadish Chandra Bose first demonstrated that radio waves could be generated and received by man-made equipment. This was a momentous achievement, which was closely followed by the efforts of the likes of Guglielmo Marconi to harness it into practical and commercially us- able devices. Thus was born the telecom revolution, without whose products we can not imagine our lives today.
In 2012, the IEEE (Institute of Elec- trical and Electronics Engineers) — the largest body of professionals in the world, which is dedicated to the promo-
tion of technology — decided to honour this achievement of Acharya J C Bose with the prestigious ‘IEEE Milestone’ status (along with the 1928 Nobel Prize- winning discovery of Raman Effect by Sir C V Raman). This status is conferred by the IEEE to select achievements in science and technology that have had a major international or regional impact.
However, astronomers did not re- alise that this development of radio technology could have any significant impact on the study of the Universe, till the serendipitous detection of radio emission coming from celestial objects in our galaxy by Karl Jansky, a young engineer working at Bell Labs, USA, in 1931. This discovery opened up a new window to the study of the Universe: Radio Astronomy, which has, over the years since, vastly improved our under- standing of the cosmos.
Radio astronomy came to India with the setting up of the radio astron- omy group at the Tata Institute of Fun-
damental Research (TIFR) in 1963, by a young scientist by the name of Govind Swarup. The group started with build- ing first the relatively modest Kalyan Radio Telescope in 1965 for studies of the Sun, followed by the significantly more ambitious Ooty Radio Telescope (ORT) in 1970, which established the credentials of the group. By 1980, they had expanded this to the Ooty Synthesis Radio Telescope.
Following this, Prof Govind Swarup and his team proposed the setting up of a truly international class radio ob- servatory: the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT). Conceived in 1985, and approved in 1988, the GMRT pro- posed an array of 30 numbers of 45 metre diameter fully steerable para- bolic dishes, spread out over a region of almost 30 km in diameter, at a site located about 80 km from Pune. The prime motivation was to explore impor- tant aspects of the Universe that are best studied at metre wavelengths. Hence,
        Image Courtesy: National Centre for Radio Astrophysics

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