Although it will be installed in the Canary Islands (Spain), the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome has hosted today the first European presentation of the European Solar Telescope (EST) in the frame of the preparatory phase for its construction. This infrastructure will be the largest European telescope to observe the sun. The construction is expected to start in 2021, and first light is planned for 2027. The project is included in the Roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) since 2016 and involves 21 scientific and industrial institutions from 15 different European countries.
European astronomers have studied the sun for centuries. Starting with Galileo Galilei, many solar physicists have helped unravel its secrets with the most advanced instrumentation at their disposal. Thanks to those efforts we now know the structure and composition of our star. However, some important questions remain unanswered. Among them is the role played by solar magnetic fields, which are thought to be responsible for the most energetic processes happening in the solar atmosphere. To address these questions, a next-generation telescope is needed.
EST will have a 4-meter primary mirror and an advanced adaptive optics system - a technology designed to reduce the image distortions caused by the Earth’s turbulent atmosphere. Thus, EST will be able to distinguish structures on the solar surface as small as 30 kilometers. Thanks to its large mirror, EST will also excel in delivering accurate measurements of solar magnetic fields, surpassing by far the capabilities of any existing solar telescope. The main goal of EST is to investigate the structure, dynamics, and energetics of the lower solar atmosphere, where magnetic fields continually interact with the plasma and magnetic energy is sometimes released in powerful explosions.
The event at the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei is a presentation at European level of a project set to be the cornerstone of European solar physics in the coming decades. The event was attended by researchers related to it and representatives of the Italian industry. Manolo Collados, coordinator of the EST and researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), presented the project, stating that "EST will combine the best of the current solar telescopes and will greatly improve their capacities."
EST is promoted by the European Association for Solar Telescopes (EAST), which includes around 500 researchers from 15 European countries. Spain participates through the IAC, coordinator of the project and responsible for several work packages, and the Instituto de Astrofísica of Andalucía (IAA-CSIC), who manages the entire communication package and has collaborated in its scientific and technological aspects from its origins. The telescope will be located in one of the two observatories in the Canary Islands: the Teide Observatory (Izaña, Tenerife) or the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (Garafía, La Palma), to benefit from the magnificent conditions for observation of the Canary skies.
More information: www.est-east.eu
Manuel Collados (EST Coordinator, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias) mcv [at] iac.es
Luis Bellot (EST Communication Office Coordinator, Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía) lbellot [at] iaa.es
Manuel González (EST Communication Officer, Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía) manuelg [at] iaa.es