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A titanic leap into the unknown?



Fact 1: We have no idea what 96 per cent of the universe is made of.

Fact 2: Cosmologists have known for some time that only 4 per cent of the universe is made of stuff like dust, gas and basic elements.

Fact 3: Dark matter accounts for 23 to 30 per cent of the universe and dark energy makes up the rest. ‘Dark’, is the scientific term for ‘nobody knows what’.

Fact 4: This might just be your guide to ‘The Origin of Everything'

Flummoxed by the many fundamental universal mysteries? Well, a group of scientists investigating universal issues are working towards finding answers to ‘The Origin of Everything’. Too big a claim? Maybe. Maybe not. At least wait till you hear all about the Titanic Telescope, an astronomical instrument 50 to 100 times more sensitive than any radio telescope created till date.

What is the Titanic?

The actual name for the Titanic is the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope. Here is the reason behind the name. The telescope will be made up of thousands of radio-frequency receivers, which have a collective area equal to 1 sq km. Each of the receivers will target a different frequency range – expanding the astronomical view of the sky.

The SKA is a collaboration of more than a dozen countries that will share its estimated building costs of US $2 billion and operating costs of US $130-200 million a year.

The telescope will scan a billion galaxies, “with an ability to pick up the energetic equivalent of an airport radar on a planet 50 light-years away”. Telescopes so far have been able to view only a million galaxies.

What does it promise?

In short, all the answers that are currently out there blowing in the wind, sorry, space!

Bigger the better! A bigger size telescope means improved resolution and a more precise study of cosmic targets.

Digital cameras were originally developed by astronomers!

How does a Telescope Work?

Ever wondered why we are unable to see distant objects with the naked eye? Because the object does not take up the required space on our retina. A ‘bigger eye’ would probably help, right? That, simply put, is what a telescope does. It collects light from a distant object and brings the image to a point of focus.
A telescope has two general functions:

imageDifferent kinds of telescopes
Telescopes are classified by the type of radiation they detect, by location or by the wavelengths of light they work with. Classifications based on wavelengths are:

Ultraviolet telescope:
Shorter wavelengths than visible light

X-ray telescope:
Shorter wavelengths than ultraviolet light

Infrared telescope:
Longer wavelengths than visible light

imageOptical Vs Radio Telescope

Simply put, optical telescopes use either lens (refractory) or mirrors (reflective) to magnify light. Radio telescopes use antennas to pick up radio waves.

  • It will transport astronomers closer to the Big Bang – more than any previous telescope. It will help answer questions such as whether Einstein's theory of general relativity holds; what cosmic magnets look like and whether black holes are hairy.
  • Collection of light
  • Magnification of the image
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A titanic leap into the unknown?