India in talks to be part of East Asian Observatories Consortium
It helps pool resources in throwing light on cosmic phenomena
India is in preliminary discussions to be a part of the East Asian Observatories Consortium of eight countries committed to build large telescopes and pool resources. There have been no talks with India’s Science and Technology department so far but organisations such as the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, which is part of several mega-science collaborations, have had talks with scientists from member organisations.
Having India join the group, which now consists of China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea as full members and Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia as ‘observers’, could mean the establishment of new kinds of telescopes — one proposed being in Tibet — that could aid the observation of new black holes and throw light on cosmic phenomena.
“We’ve been in talks and there’s no proposal yet. However, the next decade of science will see India play a major role,” said Paul Ho, Director General, East Asian Observatory. Mr. Ho was a Board Member of the Event Horizon Telescope that last year reported the first ever image of a black hole.
A prevalent practice in astronomy is to link the observations from multiple telescopes to spot the signatures of space objects such as black-holes, which are mysterious cosmic sinkholes that trap even light and with its enormous weight distort the space and matter around it and even, some believe, birth of new stars and universes.
Observing the black hole at the centre of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster, required the combining of the capabilities of eight massive telescopes around the world.
“We’ve had visits and discussion,” Eswar Reddy, Professor, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru. “It would be great if India joined as we could defray costs of future telescopes being proposed in India.”
One of them is a 10-metre diameter optical telescope in Hanle, Ladakh that could cost ₹3,000 crore but is still in early stages of consideration by the Indian government. Mr. Ho said another ambitious proposal being considered is a radio telescope (which is sensitive to radiowaves) in Tibet. “The EHT is in the Western Hemisphere. We could have one in the Eastern, with increased sensitivity, and one that connects to the Greenland Telescope and one in Hawaii and make our own observations. India could be a key part of this.”
The scientists are in the city as part of the Vigyan Samagam, a travelling exhibition that shows India’s participation in major science projects around the world. The exhibition has travelled to Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata.