GK: GROWTH-INDIA TELESCOPE’S FIRST SCIENCE OBSERVATION
The 0.7 m GROWTH-India telescope at the Indian Astronomical Observatory located in Hanle, Ladakh, has made its first science observation which is a follow-up study of a nova explosion.
- The GROWTH-India telescope was commissioned six months ago soon after which it saw first light, on the night of June 12.
- It is part of a multi-country collaborative initiative – known as the Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen (GROWTH) – to observe transient events in the universe.
- The fully robotic telescope is designed to capture cosmic events occurring over relatively shorter periods of the cosmological timescale: years, days and even hours.
- Universities and research institutes from the US, the UK, Japan, India, Germany, Taiwan and Israel are part of the initiative.
- Their primary research objective is time-domain astronomy, which entails the study of explosive transients and variable sources (of light and other radiation) in the universe.
- The telescope is potentially fully robotic and can operate on its own, but the way these readings were taken has only partly used its potential for automation.
- The group sitting in IIT Bombay worked through Bengaluru’s IIAP to control the telescope.
- While the IITB-IIAP link was through regular internet connection, the one from IIAP to the telescope in Ladakh was through a satellite link.
- A typical professional telescope has a field of about 1 square degrees. This telescope has a field that is five to six times larger.
- It can ‘slew’ or move its focus from one part of the sky to another in just about 10-15 seconds and its camera can view stellar objects that are thousands to millions of light years away.
The GROWTH-India telescope is part of the Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen. Its goals are threefold:
- Search for explosions in the optical regime whenever LIGO group detects a Binary Neutron Star merger
- Study nearby young supernova explosions
- Study nearby
The telescope has been taking readings since then, and this is the first ‘follow-up’ work. The celestial object was first noticed by a different group which saw the nova explosion. Though a small step in astronomy but it is a big leap, because it is the first scientific result obtained by this telescope.
Details of the Nova
- Novae are explosive events involving violent eruptions on the surface of white dwarf stars, leading to temporary increase in brightness of the star.
- Unlike a supernova, the star does not go on to die but returns to its earlier state after the explosion.
- This recurrent nova, named M31N-2008, has been observed to erupt several times, the most recent eruption happening in November 2018.
- Transient phenomena such as supernovae are important parts of time-domain astronomy which is a less-explored frontier in astronomy.
- Such an explosion is when the inner material of the star is thrown out. There is no other way we can actually see what is inside a star.