India joins 9 nations in building two-continent large telescope

India has joined a nine-nation consortium to build the world’s largest radio telescope, an instrument so large that it will span two continents and so sensitive that it could detect a radar signal from an airport on a planet 50 light-years away.

Several academic institutions, led by the National Centre for Radio Astronomy (NCRA), Pune, will contribute to the design and operations of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), to be co-located in Australia and South Africa and expected to become operational in the early-2020s.

The SKA, coordinated by the UK-based SKA Organisation, will use several thousands of high-frequency dish antennas and even more medium and low-frequency antennas to scan the universe for radio signals. Two key scientific goals for the SKA would be to look for signals associated with the birth of the first stars in the infant universe and to test Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in regions of extreme gravity–something never done before.

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