Pune: Infrastructure development has always been a double edge sword. And this has yet again proved after the long pending demand of a railway line between Pune and Nashik received in-principle approval from the Railway ministry.
The proposed route which will pass through Pune, Ahmednagar and Nashik district could however prove fatal for the world-class facility Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) situated at Khodad, in Narayangaon in Pune district, unless some corrective action is taken up urgently.
GMRT was conceived and built under the direction of Late Prof. Govind Swarup during 1984 to 1996. It was recently upgraded with new receivers by the current team, after which it is also known as the Upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (uGMRT).
It is an array of thirty fully steerable parabolic radio telescopes of 45 metre diameter, observing at metre wavelengths. It is operated by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. Over the years, the GMRT has delivered many very important results and new discoveries, carried out by users from all over the world, that have greatly enhanced our understanding of the Universe.
How will it get impacted?
One of the senior members from NCRA, while talking to Free Press Journal, said, “We are worried that the proposed route of the railway line cuts through our GMRT array. The interference signals from this proposed line coming so close to the GMRT will significantly degrade the quality of the data we gather and this will not only affect the research in India and abroad, but also severely damage the reputation of the GMRT. We have raised our concerns to the Maharail authorities more than a year ago, and they have had some discussions with us, but no solution has yet been proposed to mitigate the problems that the GMRT will face from this proposed railway line.”
“There are two kinds of problems that will occur. One is from the electromagnetic noise generated by the movement of the electric train as it draws power from the high tension power line above it. The other is the high-tech communication and safety systems that such modern trains use, which are expected to be at frequencies used by the GMRT," the official explained.
"The present site for locating the GMRT was selected as it was found to be a very radio quiet location, and we have worked hard over the years to preserve this aspect. For example, a few years ago, we had wind mills proposed to be built close to the GMRT array, but after discussions, the matter was resolved and the locations of the wind mills were moved 30 kilometres away from the GMRT”, he added. "But now, the protection to the GMRT is potentially in danger due to the route selected for the proposed railway line. We hope that our concerns in this case can be addressed and the issues resolved in a mutually agreeable manner, before the full and final approval is granted for this new railway line project," he further added.
• Astronomers from all over the world regularly use this telescope to observe many different astronomical objects such as HII regions, galaxies, pulsars, supernovae, and Sun and solar winds.
• In August 2018, the most distant galaxy ever known, located at a distance of 12 billion light years, was discovered by GMRT
• In February 2020, it helped in the observation of the biggest explosion in the history of the universe, the Ophiuchus Supercluster explosion.
• In January 2023,the telescope picked up a radio signal which originated from 8.8 billion light years away.
In 2020-21, the GMRT was awarded the status of an "IEEE Milestone Facility" by the international IEEE body, which is a significant recognition that was applauded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.
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