Seven European countries united to support the construction of the European Solar Telescope
Today in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Spain), representatives of nine research institutions from seven European countries signed the foundation charter of the "EUROPEAN SOLAR TELESCOPE - FUNDACIÓN CANARIA" (EST Foundation). The new legal entity will pave the way for the construction of the European Solar Telescope (EST), which will become the largest optical facility for solar research in Europe. Once built, it will keep Europe at the forefront of research and development in solar physics. Among the founding members of the foundation, Slovakia is represented by the Astronomical Institute SAS (AsÚ SAV, v. v. i.).
"The first phase of the EST project, in which the preliminary design of the telescope was created, was funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 Programme and was recently completed. The establishment of the EST Foundation therefore represents a fundamental milestone in the further progress of the project towards the construction itself," explains the Director of the Astronomical Institute SAS, Peter Gömöry.
One of the main goals of the foundation is the creation of the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), which will unite the national ministries of the partner countries. The new legal entity: "European Solar Telescope ERIC", thus created, will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the construction and operation of this large pan-European research infrastructure.
In addition to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are participating in the creation of the new legal entity. Slovakia contributes to the EST Foundation through the Astronomical Institute SAS, which has been involved in the EST project since its very beginning in 2008.
"During these 15 years, we have primarily participated in scientific activities connected with the preparatory phase of the construction of the EST telescope. Together with project partners, we also created a successful popular-science documentary film about solar research in Europe - "Reaching for the Sun". We were also coordinators of the competition for primary and secondary schools called "Sun at the Glance", in which students from Slovakia ranked among the most excellent," says P. Gömöry, who considers the membership of the Astronomical Institute SAS at the EST Foundation as a significant step forward. "Full membership gives participating institutions decision-making power over all future scientific, technological and industrial aspects of the project," he adds.
An unprecedented technological challenge
With its primary mirror with a diameter of 4.2 meters, state-of-the-art technology and specialized instrumentation, the European Solar Telescope will provide astronomers with an unrivalled tool for observing the Sun. The construction of this extraordinary device is planned at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, located on the island of La Palma (Spain) and known worldwide as a top spot for astronomical observations.
The telescope will be able to record signals that are hidden in noise for current telescopes, revealing the existence of unknown, small magnetic structures. By studying the magnetic and dynamic couplings in the solar atmosphere, EST will provide the scientific community with valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying high-energy phenomena such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These phenomena determine the so-called space weather, which has a strong influence on our technological society.
The configuration of the optical elements and the instrumentation of the EST have been carefully designed to allow the observation of interactions between the various atmospheric layers of the Sun. For this purpose, a complex set of tools will be developed, which will enable strictly simultaneous observations on several wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. This unique capability will give the EST telescope greater efficiency compared to existing or future telescopes, whether ground-based or space-based.
EST was included in the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Plan in 2016 and is therefore considered a strategic research infrastructure for Europe. One of its main goals is to improve our understanding of the Sun by observing its magnetic fields in unprecedented detail.
Members of the EST Foundation
Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Czech Republic)
Leibniz-Institut für Sonnenphysik KIS (Germany)
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der Wissenschaften (Germany)
Astronomical Institute SAS (Slovakia)
Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spain)
Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Spain)
Università della Svizzera Italiana (Switzerland)
Stockholms Universitet (Sweden)
University of Sheffield (UK) – representing a consortium of universities (Aberystwyth, Durham, Exeter, Glasgow, Sheffield and Queen's University Belfast)
Edited by Katarína Gáliková