If everything goes according to plan, construction can begin on Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, in 2024
European Solar Telescope (EST)equipped with a 4.2-meter mirror and state-of-the-art technology, will not only allow -when it is built- to study the physical processes that take place in the solar atmosphere, but also
will keep Spain in the elite of solar research.
If all goes well, the EST could begin construction in the
Roque de los Muchachos Observatory of the island of La Palma in 2024 and be operational in 2029.
The Solar Telescope has been officially presented today at the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), in an act in which scientists from the two Spanish organizations that coordinate the project -the
Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC) and the one of
Andalusia (IAA)-, have explained the importance of having this strategic infrastructure, the largest in Europe.
Studying the Sun is important for many reasons, but mainly to closely observe physical processes that occur throughout the universe and that cannot be studied anywhere else.
"The Sun is an opportunity to
study the starsbecause it is the only one close to us and we can observe it in detail, but it is also the
physics laboratory that we could never have on Earth«, explains in an interview with EFE Luis Bellot, responsible for the EST at the CSIC and researcher at the IAA-CSIC.
The person in charge of EST at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia and of the Spanish contribution to the project, Luis Bellot. /
But, in addition, the Sun not only gives us energy and allows life, but also undergoes explosive phenomena in which it releases large amounts of energy that can sometimes reach the Earth's atmosphere and affect our way of life.
All these aspects "force us to try to better understand what happens in the star and how it can affect us on Earth," the researcher stresses.
Until now, European solar observation has been done with other telescopes such as
GREGOR, located in the Teide Observatoryin Tenerife, which is currently the largest operating solar telescope in Europe, and which, equipped with a 1.5 meter diameter mirror, has been a test bed for the EST.
However, although the image quality of this facility is very good and allows physical processes on the Sun's surface to be observed on scales as small as 70 kilometres, the EST's primary mirror of more than four meters will mean "an enormous qualitative leap that it will help us to solve the open questions in solar physics”, highlights Bellot.
The EST will allow structures to be observed at a
20 kilometer scale where magnetic fields, which continuously and rapidly evolve and change, interact with each other and release a lot of energy. These are processes that are not well understood because they have not been observed, but "EST will change things," he says.
The observations with the new European Solar Telescope will be crucial to understand how the Sun releases all this energy and produces flares and coronal mass ejections, two explosive phenomena that emit electromagnetic particles and gas, respectively, that can reach the Earth and affect the telecommunications or even high voltage installations.
But the European Solar Telescope is not only important for science, it is also a technological challenge that will allow Europe to continue leading solar physical research worldwide and that the Spanish science that leads this project will continue to be among the elite.
The project involves 16 European countries led by the IAC (coordinator) and the IAA, and is being supported by the governments of Andalusia and the Canary Islands, and by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.
The coordinator of the EST project, Manuel Collados Vera, in the presentation of the telescope. /
In the presentation of the Telescope today, at the CSIC headquarters in Madrid, the Ministry's General Secretary for Research, Raquel Yotti, stressed that the project is "inspiring" for Spain to lead future scientific challenges.
Yotti has highlighted that the installation has achieved three elements; the first a scientific collaboration between institutions and countries, but also with companies and the productive fabric, because to build it it will be necessary to recruit Spanish companies capable of generating technology such as that needed by this telescope.
The second element - he said - is the long term, since it will require
commitments and investment for the next few years, and the third is the
leadershipin this case of Spain, which has been able to "make things happen, that we all go further and that we achieve goals that a few years ago seemed impossible".