Professor Govind Swarup is the pioneer of radio astronomy in India. Over the last 7 decades, he has built two of the world’s largest radio telescopes, nurtured a community of Indian radio astronomers that is among the best in the world, and continues to inspire many generations of astronomers, engineers and students to this day. Let us explore this unique story through the eyes of Prof. Swarup himself.
Govind Swarup was born on 23 March 1929 and spent his early year in the small town of Thakurdwara in the Moradabad district of the state of Uttar Pradesh.
He obtained his MSc degree from Allahabad University in 1950 and joined the newly formed National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
He began working in the area of paramagnetic resonance under the direction of the eminent physicist K. S. Krishnan.
He was immediately offered the position of Assistant Professor at Stanford University.
Within India, Prof. Homi Bhabha, the Director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai moved quickly to approve the proposal. Bhabha sent Govind Swarup a telegram conveying TIFR’s decision to set up a radio astronomy group. This marked the golden beginning of radio astronomy in India.
Over the next decade, the Ooty Radio Telescope made many new discoveries in astronomy and contributed to studies of the Sun, interplanetary scintillation, pulsars and the most distant radio quasars. Swarup and his student Vijay Kapahi showed that radio source counts were consistent with the predictions of the Big Bang theory.
Here is a more detailed story on the Ooty Radio Telescope.
The telescope was ready by the year 2000, and has since then been open to the international astronomy community. Astronomers from 40 countries have used the facility so far for studies of almost all kinds of radio sources.
Here is a more detailed story on the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope.
Today, as he steps into his 90th year his enthusiasm for his subject is undiminished. He still attends research seminars regularly and gives occasional talks on his research. In 2017, he co-authored a paper on radio observations of the planet Venus, 62 years after he wrote his first research paper in 1955!
This virtual story is developed by National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, a unit of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
Prof. Govind Swarup
Prof. Divya Oberoi
Prof. Yogesh Wadadekar
Prof. Niruj Mohan
Ms. Sonalika Purkayastha
and Ms. Bhavya Ramakrishnan from TIFR archives.
Do see the story on the Ooty Radio Telescope.
Do see the story on the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope.