Space Physics Laboratory: Decades of Excellence

The genesis of Space Physics Laboratory (SPL) is closely entwined with the evolution of Space Research in India. From the modest beginning as a ground support facility provider for the sounding rocket experiments in 1968, it has evolved as a world-class laboratory of ISRO with a saga of over 45 years of excellence in space research. The erstwhile Space Physics Division of VSSC was elevated to SPL on 11th April 1984 as a full-fledged laboratory with autonomy in research. The research activities of SPL covers the whole gamut of atmospheric, space and planetary sciences, with studies extending from the surface of Earth through the neutral atmosphere – ionosphere - magnetosphere to the Sun and other planetary bodies, and is poised for scaling greater heights.
In addition to fundamental research in the above disciplines, SPL is actively  involved in major space programs of the country, such as Chandrayaan-1 and -2 missions to Moon, Mars Orbiter Mission, YouthSat, Megha-Tropiques, Aditya-L1 Mission, and ISRO-Geosphere Biosphere Programme. The network of observatories of SPL spreads across the length and breadth of the country including islands, as well as in Antarctic, Arctic, and the Himalayas. SPL also coordinates major experimental campaigns, at national and international level, using balloons, aircrafts, rockets, and ship cruises, and is a contributor to India's polar research programme. Extensive research activities are being carried out on Atmospheric Aerosols, Trace Gases, Atmospheric Chemistry, Clouds, Radiation, Surface characteristics, Air-Sea Interactions, Vertical Coupling of the atmosphere, Atmospheric Dynamics and Electrodynamics, Space Weather Phenomena, Sun-Earth relationship, and Planetary Sciences.

Concept of SPL Day Lecture

To celebrate the decades of excellence in scientific research, SPL has instituted the "SPL Day Lecture", which will be delivered every year by a Scientist of Eminence.

Date Name of the Speaker Title of the Talk

Dr. Suresh Das

Director, National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), CSIR, Thiruvananthapuram 

 Photoresponsive materials

Prof. Ashoke Sen

Distinguished Professor, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad and Padma Bhushan

 Survival in our strange Universe

Prof. Shashikumar M. Chitre

Distinguished Professor, Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, University of Mumbai

 How well do we know our Sun?

Prof. Jayant V. Narlikar

Renowned astrophysicist and Padma Vibhushan

 Searches for life outside the Earth


FIRST SPL DAY LECTURE : Dr. Suresh Das (17 April 2014)

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Dr. Suresh Das is an eminent scientist of international repute with fundamental contributions in the areas of Photoscience and Photonics. He delivered inaugural SPL day lecture on the topic  Photoresponsive materials’ on 17-Apr-2014.


SECOND SPL DAY LECTURE : Prof. Ashoke Sen (29 June 2015)

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Prof Ashoke Sen, Distinguished Scientist at the Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, delivered lecture on ‘Survival in Our Strange Universe’ on June 29, 2015. Prof Sen led the audience through nuances of the ‘string theory’, half-life of our universe, the possibility of its encounter with ‘false vacuum’ and destruction by the so called ‘Killer Bubbles’. However he also observed that the probability that our universe will be encountering a Killer bubble is about one in ten billion. The evidence available at present indicates the age of the universe to be 14 billion years. String theory states that the universe is in a meta-stable state, and not stable state. He observed that though we cannot detect any signal that moves faster than light, the universe can expand at a much faster rate. With the present expansion rate, the universe may double in every 12 billion years. He also did not rule out the possibility of colonization of far reaches of our universe in the distant future.


THIRD SPL DAY LECTURE : Prof. Shashikumar M. Chitre (17 March 2017)

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Prof. Shashikumar M. Chitre, Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, University of Mumbai, distinguished professor and Padma Bhushan awardee, delivered the lecture on the topic “How well do we know our Sun?” on March 17, 2017.

Although the internal layers of the Sun are not directly accessible to observations, it is nonetheless possible to infer the physical conditions prevailing in the solar interior. This can be accomplished with the help of structure equations governing the mechanical and thermal equilibrium coupled with the powerful probes provided by accurately measured solar oscillation frequencies and neutrino fluxes generated in the thermonuclear reaction network operating in the deep solar interior. With the accumulation of helioseismic data spanning a period of more than two decades, it has now become possible to study the temporal variations occurring inside the Sun over the solar cycle which manifest most strikingly with the appearance and disappearance of sunspots on the solar surface with an approximate 11-year period. It is generally believed that the basic mechanism driving this solar activity cycle must involve an interaction between the Sun's observed differential rotation and the global magnetic field. Some of the unresolved problems in Solar Physics include determination of the magnetic field configuration inside the Sun and its role in heating the solar chromosphere and the corona, identification of the solar dynamo responsible for driving the activity cycle and for reversal of the global magnetic field, and also an explanation of the almost synchronous variation of the oscillation frequencies, rotation rate, magnetic field and total solar irradiance in phase with the cycle.


FOURTH SPL DAY LECTURE : Prof. Jayant V. Narlikar (23 April 2018)

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The SPL Day Lecture was delivered by Prof. Jayant V. Narlikar, the Distinguished Indian Astrophysicist, on Monday, 23 April 2018 on the topic “Searches for Life Outside the Earth”.
This lecture highlighted the evidence which has recently come up in support of the conjecture that life may exist outside the confines of the Earth. It was an interdisciplinary topic involving astronomy, biology, information sciences etc. He also described the experiment sponsored by ISRO to look for micro life about 40 kms above the Earth's surface.

In his talk, he presented the possibility of the existence of life outside the Earth and the challenges in providing the experimental evidence for it through space exploration. The main difficulty in detecting the life is due to enormous amount of time required to reach even the nearest galaxy with the most advanced space ship available as on today. according to him the extra terrestrial life can exist because the basic building blocks of life might be present in some of the celestial body in other galaxies. He also presented the exciting results from the experiments which he has conducted in collaboration with ISRO towards the search for extra-terrestrial life using high altitude balloons. The three different types of bacteria detected through these experiments are so for not identified on the Earth. One of these bacteria is named after ISRO, and is called as "Bacillus isronensis". He hope that with modern technological advancements we will be able to provide conclusive evidence for life outside the confines of the Earth in near future.