Renowned radio astronomer Govind Swarup died in Pune on Monday night following a brief illness. He was 91.
Swarup is credited with conceptualising and leading the team which set up the Ooty Radio Telescope (ORT) and Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope (GMRT). He was the founder-director of TIFR – National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) in Pune.
Born in Thakurwada in Uttar Pradesh in 1929, Swarup completed his master’s degree from Allahabad University in 1950 and went on pursue his doctoral studies at the Stanford University in 1961.
A letter from Homi Bhabha, father of India’s nuclear physics, asking Swarup about the possibilities of opening up avenues to study Radio Astronomy here, brought him back to India.
Taking the challenge head on, Swarup returned to India in 1965, and soon joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
Setting up the ORT was no easy task but Swarup was aware of the geographical advantage India enjoyed, due to its close location to the equator. His clear vision helped set up the 500 metre-long, 30 metre-wide set of dishes in a cylindrical parabolic fashion, covering an area of 15,000 square metre in the lowest cost possible, yet the telescope was the largest at that time.
With the experience of ORT, Swarup decided to set up Pune’s GMRT, an array of 30 dish antennas spread across a distance of 25 km, arranged in a ‘Y’ shape at a pristine yet suitable location at Khodad in Junnar taluka. Since 2002, GMRT has facilitated some novel discoveries in the field of astronomy.
Swarup had also guided the upgradation process the GMRT underwent in the recent years.
A recipient of the Padma Shri, Swarup had also won several other coveted awards, including the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize and the Grote Reber Medal.
He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.
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