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Indian techies’ software helps hear from far-off galaxies and make discoveries

by OnverZe
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There are two different types of telescopes that are used to look up at the sky: optical telescopes, which help gather data from distant radio waves, and radio telescopes, which use large antennae to gather information from faint, distant light sources.

Indian techies' software helps hear from far-off galaxies and make discoveries.

Although optical telescopes and observatories are more widely used, they have the drawback of only being operational at night. However, radio telescopes are able to continuously record radio signals. The MeerKAT radio telescope, with its 64 antennae, is the largest and most sensitive of its kind so far, and it is located in a desert in South Africa.

The data processing software created by Indian techies has allowed for the discovery of some fascinating observations from this telescope. The ‘Automated Radio Telescope Image Processing Pipeline’ (ARTIP) is designed to assist in processing the enormous amount of radio signal data produced by the telescope and transform it into data that can be used for scientific research. 

The ARTIP software, according to Chhaya Dhanani, Portfolio Head Engineering for Research, Thoughtworks, “speeds up the process for scientists because there is a lot of noise(disturbance) in the radio signals, so that has to be cleaned up, signals have to be calibrated, and data processing has to be done.

This software was created from scratch by a five-person Pune, India-based team employed by a large international software company. Since 2017, we have been working on developing this software; the first version was released in 2020, and updates are still being made today. Our software also released the data that it processed, according to Dhanani. 

The science teams working on it have published numerous articles in international peer-reviewed journals using the data obtained using our software. Rydberg atoms (massive hydrogen atoms) and OH radicals in distant galaxies are two examples of recent discoveries, according to the scientist. To arrive at this result, the software processed data totaling more than 1 Petabyte (1000 Terabytes).

While the software provides the data, the MeerKAT Absorption Line Survey (MALS) team, which consists of Indian and South African scientists, interprets and studies it. Dr. Neeraj Gupta from the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) is the project’s principal investigator.

“Data processing software is used by all science telescopes, and at some point, human intervention is necessary. We have made sure that manual intervention is not necessary with ARTIP. The science teams can directly examine the data and make inferences from it, she continued.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the largest collection of radio telescopes in the world, is only a forerunner of the MeerKAT telescope. The SKA is eventually supposed to absorb MeerKAT. Through the use of its unheard-of capabilities, the SKA can search the skies for radio signals. It has the capacity to produce enormous amounts of data—almost as much as the internet does each day.

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