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India set to open a new window to universe in two years

India set to open a new window to universe in two years

Amit Mitra

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The giant major atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment Gamma Ray Telescope weighing 180 tonnes, designed and developed by ECIL, for Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to be installed in Ladakh. Photo: P V Sivakumar
Business Line The giant major atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment Gamma Ray Telescope weighing 180 tonnes, designed and developed by ECIL, for Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to be installed in Ladakh. Photo: P V Sivakumar

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Develops world’s second largest gamma ray telescope

Hyderabad, June 28:

India is set to open a new window to the universe in two years.

The country has developed the world’s second largest gamma ray telescope that will help scientists gain new knowledge on the origin of the universe and origin of cosmic rays that bombard the space.

State-owned Electronics Corporation of India Ltd in Hyderabad has designed the giant 45 m high and 180 tonne telescope.

The Rs 45-crore mammoth structure will begin its journey on Saturday to the high altitude Hanle region in Ladakh, where it will be finally be installed to study the universe.

“The telescope will be operational in Ladakh by early 2016. After we reassemble the structure there, we will have to have some scientific trials and calibrations,” P Sudhakar, Chairman and Managing Director of ECIL, said.

Fourth gama ray telescope

This will be the fourth gamma ray telescope in the world. The largest such telescope built by a consortium of European countries with a diameter of 28 m is currently in operation in Namibia.

“ This is the second largest with a diameter of 21 m. But because it is being located in the high altitude Ladakh region, it will have the same capabilities of the one in Namibia,” T Koul, Head (Astro Sciences division), BARC, said.

The other two gama ray telescope are located in Spain and the US.

Indigenously built telescope

Significantly, unlike the other three, the Indian telescope is totally built indigenously, with designs supplied by BARC.

Basically, the telescope is fitted with over 1,300 specialised diamond-turned mirrors that can capture gamma rays that hit the earth’s atmosphere from space more than 100 million light years away.

The rays are then captured by a 1088-pixel camera fitted at the tip of the structure.

“ We can study super nova rays, pulsar energy flashes and other unidentified sources of such energy in the space,” Koul said.

How is the telescope useful to man? “Primarily, it can be used to satisfy the eternal curiosity of man to have better knowledge of the university. We can also study the black hole phenomena in the universe, among other things,” he said.

Spin-off technologies

But more important, as such projects have earlier demonstrated, it will give India some new spin-off technologies that have wide application.

For example, the diamond-turned mirrors, developed for the first time in India, can be used in strategic applications such as defence and space sectors. Also, the high resolution camera can throw up new technologies for high-precision cameras that can find application in healthcare and other sectors.

The structure will be dismantled and transported a distance of 2,500 km to Ladakh in the next three weeks, while some critical components will be airlifted.

(This article was published on June 28, 2014)
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