India’s first multi-wavelength space-based observatory, Astrosat, completed five successful years of operation on September 28.
The observatory has provided access to a number of young students and professors, apart from seasoned astronomers, to dig into scientific data for carrying out advanced research in this field.
Until a decade ago, there were barely 50 users of astronomical data, of the kind that Astrosat generates, in India. “But today, the registered users of Astrosat data in India alone are close to 700, a majority of them from universities. In all, there are about 1,500 registered users from across 43 countries,” said Dipankar Bhattacharya, senior scientist from Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) and a key member of team Astrosat.
Launched in 2015 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the 1,513-kg Astrosat has onboard a wide range of payloads – Ultra Violet Imaging Telescope (UVIT), Large Area X-Ray Proportional Counters (LAXPC), Soft X-Ray Telescope (SXT), Cadmium Zinc Telluride Imager (CZTI) , Scanning Sky Monitor (SSM) and Charged Particle Monitor (CPM).
Led by ISRO, the collaboration saw inputs from scientists from IUCAA, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Physical Research Laboratory, Indian Institute of Astrophysics and Raman Research Institute.
Though conceived sometime in the mid-1990s, Astrosat’s journey till the launchpad was rather a long one. However, over the last five years, it has matured and continues to churn out results from unexplored areas in the sky.
In the coming years, studying galaxies located close to the Milky Way will be among the many areas of research using this facility. Special focus would be on the study of star formation in such galaxies.
“The satellite’s far ultraviolet imaging capabilities are by far the best and it is good at detecting star formations. Mapping such galaxies could reveal where the stars get formed,” said Bhattacharya.
The data sets generated by Astrosat are quite unique and best complement those generated by other international satellites. This combination has the potential to offer newer vistas for studying, he said.
Speaking to The Indian Express on the mission’s success and what the facility has changed in the landscape of studying astronomy, Somak Raychaudhury, director of IUCAA, said, “Astrosat has opened newer avenues to astronomers, who can now look at celestial objects across spectra using one facility.”
One of it has been a greater number of polarisation measurements of Gamma Ray Bursts.
“Earlier, a handful of measurements were done. However, Astrosat is able to take at least 10 such measurements in a year,” said Bhattacharya. There are a lot more scientific discoveries in store as more data sets await analysis, he added.
“I personally feel that Astrosat has another decade of performance left,” said Raychaudhury.
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