Next Generation Telescope

A group of international scientists have met at Queen’s University Belfast to finalise plans for a next generation telescope which will help to crack the mysteries of the Sun.

The revolutionary four-metre telescope is being designed to investigate the Sun at unprecedented resolution. It will allow scientists to identify structures as small as 30km, which is the equivalent to finding a pound coin from a distance of 100km.

The European Solar Telescope will be based in the Canary Islands, Spain, and the first observations are planned for 2027. There are 17 European countries involved and Queen’s University Belfast is one of the lead organisations for the project for the UK.

During a series of meetings at Queen’s, 25 leading researchers discussed the final design and construction of the telescope.

Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis commented: “Currently we know very little about the Sun. It gives us light and energy which are indispensable for life on Earth. It is a very dynamic and active system with changes that could potentially have dramatic consequences for our civilisation. However, we don’t know the processes that operate in the Sun’s atmosphere. We are unable to predict them and therefore we are unable to forecast the impact that they will have on Earth.

“The European Solar Telescope (EST) could be the answer to solving many of these mysteries. It will be the largest European telescope that will be able to study the Sun at unprecedented levels of detail. It will help scientists to understand the magnetic coupling of the solar atmosphere and allow us to observe the Sun at a very high resolution and identify structures as small as 30km, which is the equivalent to finding a pound coin from a distance of 100km.”

Professor Mathioudakis added: “At Queen’s University Belfast our world class researchers have exceptional expertise in the area of solar physics. We are one of the lead organisations in the EST project for the UK and have been working closely with our international partners to agree the final design and construction of the telescope. It is fantastic to have leading scientists from across Europe here in Belfast for these meetings and to share knowledge on this world leading project.”

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