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Biggest solar telescope in Europe to put Spain at the cutting edge of 'sun studies'
Monday, May 9, 2022 @ 12:17 PM

EUROPE'S largest telescope will go up on the Canarian island of La Palma and put Spain at the sharp end of global investigation into the sun.

Unveiled recently at the National Research Council (CSIC) by the Canarian Astrophysics Institute (IAC) and its counterpart in the southern mainland region of Andalucía (IAA), the European Solar Telescope (EST) has a 4.2-metre lens and will enable space scientists to monitor the physical processes that take place in the atmosphere surrounding our closest star.

What the EST will look like once built (photo by the Canarian Astrophysics Institute, or IAC)

If everything goes according to plan, work will start on building the EST in the year 2024 at the existing observatory in Roque de los Muchachos, and it should be fully operational and in use by 2029.

Project leader and researcher at the IAA, Dr Luis Bellot, says studying the sun is an opportunity for studying the stars in general, since 'it is the only one we have close enough to us to observe in detail'.

“It's also the physics laboratory we'll never be able to have here on earth,” Dr Bellot explains.

As well as being essential for life on earth and providing the energy the planet needs for its survival, the sun also undergoes explosive phenomena which eject 'huge amounts of energy' that can 'reach the earth's atmosphere' and 'affect our way of life', the investigator continues.

“All these features make it obligatory for us to try to understand better what happens on and around our star and how these happenings impact us on earth,” he says.

The EST will suppose a 'quantum leap' in 'sun studies', Dr Bellot reveals, given the scale of footage and detail captured.

Until now – and until the year 2029 – solar observation has been carried out via telescopes such as the GREGOR in Tenerife's Teide National Park, and which is currently the largest in operation in Europe.

And although the image quality from the Teide Observatory is 'very good' and allows researchers to 'monitor physical processes on the sun's surface', the EST's huge primary lens will take this to a whole new level.



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