News Sci/Tech India's Role in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO)
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Extraterrestrial life

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From Pune to the Cosmos: India's Key Role in the Search for Aliens

By TOI Science Desk | Published on Apr 2, 2024

Indian astronomers are poised to play a pivotal role in the global effort of the 16-nation Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO), an ambitious venture set to embark on scanning the cosmos in 2027.

Revolutionizing Radio Astronomy

India, which joined the consortium in January, is among the key contributors to what is hailed as the largest telescope project of the 21st century. The SKAO combines the forces of radio astronomy and artificial intelligence (AI) to explore cosmic phenomena.

Exploring Cosmic Mysteries

The SKAO aims to unravel the mysteries of the universe, including:

  • The lifecycle of stars
  • Habitable planets
  • The potential for extraterrestrial life

India's Investment

India has allocated Rs 12.5 billion ($150 million) for the establishment of a regional data center in Pune, renowned for its radio astronomy research. This center will house supercomputers tasked with processing the vast scientific data collected by the telescope.

Unprecedented Clarity and Brightness

Utilizing radio interferometry, the SKAO will integrate signals from numerous antennas across large distances to produce images of unprecedented clarity and brightness. This network of antennas, spanning continents, aims to document cosmic phenomena, filling the equivalent of 1.5 million laptops annually with data.

India's Readiness

Prof. Yashwant Gupta, director of the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) in Pune, stated, "The idea is to start training this year (using AI to decode scientific information) with approximately two petabytes of data archived through GMRT. We will use this to develop a small model demonstrating that India is ready to receive and analyze the data."

Global Collaboration

The SKAO's construction sites include South Africa's Karoo region and Western Australia, chosen for their remoteness to minimize signal interference. The first components of the telescope's dish array antennas were installed in early March, with full operational capability expected by 2027.

India's participation in the SKAO underscores its commitment to cutting-edge scientific exploration and positions it at the forefront of unraveling the universe's secrets.

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