Astronomers have urged the government for an assistance of Rs 300 crore to strengthen India's participation in the global astronomical and space programmes and as well for developing domestic capabilities.
India is seeking to join three proposed international initiatives to materialize by 2020, namely Giant Magellan Telescope programme in Hawaii, 30-metre Telescope programme to be set up either in Hawaii of Chile and the European Extremely Large Telescope in Chile.
India is also a non-executive member of the global initiative to set up Square Kilometre Array (SKA) to be set up by 2020 either in western Australia or South Africa at an estimated investment of one billion euro.
The site of the project will be finalized in 2011 and the basic design of the project will be completed by 2013.
The proposed SKA will be designed to detect life force in the universe other than the earth. It will be housed in 1000 km area and have thousands of dishes to collect extra territorial intelligence.
It would have 30 times more capabilities than the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) set up in 30 km area in Khodad in Maharashtra.
The Dean of the Pune-based Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), T Padmanabhan speaking at the 96th Indian Science Congress said, "Study and researches in astronomy and space have gained importance globally. India, which has the ability to compete and participate in the field, should not be left behind. We urge that government an immediate assistance of Rs 300 crore for research in this field over a period of 10 years."
Participation in global initiatives was absolutely necessary, he said.
Speaking on developing domestic capabilities, Dipankar Bhattacharya of IUCAA said that India had only 2 to 2.34 metre aperture optical telescope, while many countries of the world have 8 to 10 metre aperture optical telescopes. India has 6% share in the 11-metre aperture South African Large Telescope (SALT). With Isreali assistance India would launch Tauvex Telescope project and an indigenous Astrosat project would be launched in a year's time. A 3.6-metre Devasthal Optical Telescope project is planned in the Himalayas.
Bhattacharya said India has set up High Altitude Gamma Ray Observatory, HAGAR at Hanle in the Himalaya, which was not comparable to the world's largest, HESS in Nambia. India was participating in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in US. Augur Cosmic Ray Observatory which the largest in the world and set in Argentina has partially become operational and there was a global initiative to set up Antartic Neutrino Observatory, he said.
Biswajit Paul of the Bangalore-based Raman Research Institute said that India should make space the platform for future researches in astronomy. Yashwant Gupta of the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) said that large facilities cannot be built by a single nation and hence global cooperation was needed.
The director of Shah Institute of Nuclear Physics and Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Bikas Sinha said that India successfully participated in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva.