Thiruvananthapuram: School students can now hope to learn radio astronomy with an indigenous device developed by a team of students from the Astro Club of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Thiruvananthapuram.
The team has developed a radio telescope with a set top box and a dish antenna at an affordable cost of less than Rs 4,000. The innovators consisted of Anjali Yelikar, Devansh Agarwal, Pranshu Mandal and Kanchan Soni.
While the normal telescopes use the light emitted by the heavenly bodies for viewing, a radio telescope captures the radio waves from them.
The wavelength of the light we see is in the range of hundreds of nanometres, while that of radio waves is in the range of centimetres, according to Devansh Agarwal.
Do radio telescopes have some advantages over the regular telescopes? Pranshu Mandal says, “well, our naked eye sees human bodies, but through an X-ray machine, we see the skeletal structure. Each kind of wave provides a different visual experience. So, now scientists use various telescopes like X-ray, gamma ray and radio telescopes to get a more comprehensive picture,” he says.
Normally, the dish used for radio telescopes is big. “The one at Arecibo observatory at Puerto Rico is 305m in diameter. The giant metrewave radio telescope in Pune makes use of 30 dishes each of 45m diameter,” says Kanchan Soni.
Their set top box is an improvised version of a design put forward by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), Pune. The dish antenna collects radio waves which are in its field of view.
The set top box is used to power a device which gives a voltage reading based on the intensity of the signal. In the IISER version, the series of voltage readings is fed to a microprocessor so that they can digitise the data.
The team is planning to use it to introduce radio astronomy in schools. “We are also working on an interferometer. We will make use of more than one dish, larger in diameter, so that we can get a higher resolution result,” says Pranshu Mandal.