India to Join SKAO as a Full Member | 08 Jan 2024

Source: IE

Why in News?

India will also be part of the world's largest radio telescope project called the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO).

  • Countries have to sign, and ratify, the SKAO convention to formally become members. The Government of India’s approval for joining the project, with a financial sanction of Rs 1,250 crore, is the first step towards the ratification.

What is the SKAO?

  • About: SKAO is an intergovernmental organization that aims to build and operate cutting-edge radio telescopes. Its global headquarters is located in the Jodrell Bank Observatory, United Kingdom.
    • The project will not have a single telescope but an array of thousands of antennas, to be installed in remote radio-quiet locations in South Africa and Australia, that will operate as one large unit meant to observe and study celestial phenomena.
    • Some of the countries taking part in building the SKA include the UK, Australia, South Africa, Canada, China, France, India, Italy and Germany.
  • India’s Role in SKAO:
    • India, through the Pune-based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) and other institutions, has played a key role in the development of the ambitious SKAO project since its inception in the 1990s.
    • India's primary contribution to SKAO lies in the development and operation of the Telescope Manager element, essentially the "neural network" or software that controls the entire telescope's operation.


NCRA is a research institution in India that specializes in radio astronomy. It is located on the Pune University Campus and is part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai.

What is a Radio Telescope?

  • About: A radio telescope is a specialized type of antenna and receiver system used to detect and collect radio waves emitted by celestial objects.
    • Radio waves are EM (Electromagnetic) waves that have wavelengths between 1 millimeter and 100 kilometers.
    • Unlike optical telescopes, radio telescopes can be used in the daytime as well as at night.
  • Applications: Radio telescopes are used to study a wide range of astronomical phenomena, including:
    • The formation and evolution of stars and galaxies
    • Black holes and other active galactic nuclei
    • The interstellar medium
    • Planets and moons in our solar system
    • The search for extraterrestrial life
  • Major Radio Telescopes:

What are Gravitational Waves?

  • About: Gravitational waves are ripples or vibrations in the very fabric of spacetime. For instance, when a pebble is dropped in a pond, the resulting ripples are analogous to gravitational waves, but instead of water, they propagate through the fundamental structure of the universe.
    • In 1916, Albert Einstein forecasted the presence of gravitational waves within his theory of general relativity.
  • Prominence: Gravitational wave research, as evidenced by the 2017 Nobel Prize awarded for the first detection using Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), holds immense potential for scientific breakthroughs.
    Recently, India gave its go-ahead to construct the third node of the LIGO in Hingoli district of Maharashtra.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q. Consider the following (2008):

Assertion (A): Radio waves bend in a magnetic field.
Reason (R): Radio waves are electromagnetic in nature.

Which of the following is correct?

(a) Both A and R are individually true, and R is the correct explanation of A
(b) Both A and R are individually true, but R is not the correct explanation of A
(c) A is true but R is false
(d) A is false but R is true

Ans: (a)

Q. A layer in the Earth’s atmosphere called Ionosphere facilitates radio communication. Why? (2011)

  1. The presence of ozone cause the reflection of radio waves to Earth.
  2. Radio waves have a very long wavelength.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Ans: (d)