Page 39 - April 2021
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         Clockwise from left: Antennas of the GMRT; citation of the IEEE Milestone; inside the GMRT control room
  remnants and other nebulae, distribu- tion of hydrogen gas in our galaxy; stud- ies of other galaxies (including clusters of galaxies) and their evolution over cos- mic time; various kinds of transient, ex- plosive events in the Universe; the early Universe when the first stars and galax- ies were formed; survey of the entire sky to make one of the most sensitive all-sky atlas at low frequencies.
In addition, the GMRT has also been used for interesting experiments in space science: for tracking critical space missions such as the landing on Mars by the Schiaparelli probe from the Exomars mission of the European Space Agency, in 2016. For this, NCRA worked in col- laboration with NASA and ESA to har- ness the sensitivity of the GMRT to pick up the signal (of strength similar to what a typical mobile phone transmits) from the probe as it made its descent through the Martian atmosphere.
On the socio-technical front, in addition to leading to a renaissance of low frequency radio astronomy in the world, the GMRT has also led to a ma- jor growth of professional astronomy in India, while also spurring the growth of a vast range of technology and capability growth in the country. A large number
of students and
scientists have
been trained
on the GMRT to become world class astronomers, and a strong engineering team has grown around the construc- tion, maintenance and upgrade of the facility.
In November 2020, the IEEE ap- proved the proposal to accord the ‘IEEE Milestone’ status to the GMRT. The dedication ceremony for this was held on March 30, 2021. It was a proud mo- ment not just for the NCRA family, but for the entire science and technology fraternity of the country to see a mod- ern, world-class, made-in-India facility get this prestigious recognition at the global level. It is also a fitting tribute to the pathbreaking work of Acharya J C Bose that earned the first ‘IEEE Mile- stone’ in India. This special recognition to the GMRT will surely motivate the current as well as future generations to reach for even higher goals, be it for do- mestic projects like further expanding the GMRT or building other facilities in the country, or for confidently taking India into active participation in large international projects.
One of the most attractive next gen-
eration projects in radio astronomy that India is looking at is the Square Kilome- tre Array (SKA). The SKA aims to build an observatory that is several times more powerful than the GMRT that prom- ises to revolutionise our view of the Uni- verse. It is a truly collaborative project of many nations — as many as a dozen countries at present — putting together their skills and resources to achieve the larger common goal. India is one of the nations involved in the SKA from the initial stages, and has made significant contributions in the early planning and design phases. Much of this has been made possible due to the experience and confidence gained from building facilities like the ORT and GMRT in the country. Looking to the future, India is well-poised to make substantial contri- butions to the construction of the SKA and to take its due place in the comity of nations in the arena of modern radio astronomy.
* The writer is Centre Director, National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Pune.
        Images Courtesy: National Centre for Radio Astrophysics

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