India neutrino observatory being planned at Pottipuram village, in Theni district, near the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border.
- Proton, neutron, and electron are tiny particles that make up atoms. The neutrino is also a tiny elementary particle, but it is not part of the atom. Such particles are also found to exist in nature.
- Neutrino has a very tiny mass and no charge. It interacts very weakly with other matter particles.
- Neutrinos come from the sun (solar neutrinos) and other stars, cosmic rays that come from beyond the solar system, and from the Big Bang from which our Universe originated. They can also be produced in the lab
- The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approx.1200 m for non-accelerator based high energy and nuclear physics research in India. The initial goal of INO is to study neutrinos.
- It is a mega-science project jointly funded by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST)
- The INO will study atmospheric neutrinos only. Solar neutrinos have much lower energy than the detector can detect.
In-charge of the project
The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is the nodal institution. The observatory is to be built jointly with the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Science and Technology.
Locating the INO in the South
A project report says most of the neutrino detectors are at latitudes over 35 deg. It is possible to push such a detector down to almost 8 deg latitude in South India, within proximity to the Equator. This permits neutrino astronomy searches covering the whole celestial sky and study of solar neutrinos passing through the Earth’s core.
Locals opposing it
Locals fear that the excavation and blasts needed to bore the tunnel in the mountains will endanger the biodiversity of the Western Ghats. Some of the concerns voiced range from radiation, structural damage to the mountain to emission of hazardous chemicals.
Scientists have junked all these claims as baseless and unfounded.