Seven European countries join forces to promote the construction of the European Solar Telescope

The MPS participates in the creation of the European Solar Telescope Canarian Foundation.

July 25, 2023

This morning, a total of 9 institutions from 7 European countries signed in Santa Cruz de Tenerife the deed of the Canarian Foundation that grants legal character to the project consortium and paves the way for the future construction of the European Solar Telescope (EST). The countries responsible for the creation of the entity that will lead the project to the next phase of development are the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Germany contributes to EST through the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS, Göttingen) and the Leibniz-Institute for Solar Physics (Freiburg), which have been engaged in the project since its initiation in 2008. The role of the MPS focuses on the development of the next-generation spectropolarimetric instruments, so-called integral field units. Only then can the full potential of the EST to measure fast and small scale processes in the solar atmosphere be exploited.

The preliminary design phase of the telescope, which was funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, has recently been completed. Now, the establishment of the EST Foundation marks a crucial milestone in advancing the project towards the construction phase. One of the primary objectives of the foundation is to create a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), which will bring together the national ministries of the partner countries. The EST-ERIC will be the legal entity responsible for overseeing all aspects of the construction and operation of this large research infrastructure.

The MPS is taking a significant step forward by joining the EST Foundation. This action gives the participating institutions decision-making power over all future scientific, technological and industrial aspects of the project.

The European Solar Telescope is set to become the largest solar telescope ever built in Europe. With its 4.2-meter primary mirror, state-of-the-art technology, and specialised instrumentation suite, EST will provide astronomers with an unrivalled tool for observing the Sun. This solar telescope will be constructed in the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, located on the island of La Palma (Spain) and renowned worldwide as a top-tier site for astronomical observations.

EST was included on the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Roadmap in 2016 and is therefore considered a strategic research infrastructure for Europe. One of its primary objectives is to improve our understanding of the Sun by observing its magnetic fields in unprecedented detail. EST will be able to uncover signals currently hidden in the noise and reveal the existence of unknown, tiny magnetic structures. By studying the magnetic and dynamic coupling of the solar atmosphere, EST will provide valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These phenomena determine the so-called space weather, which has a strong influence on our technological society.

The optical configuration and instrumentation of EST have been meticulously designed to capture the interactions between the different atmospheric layers of the Sun. Additionally, a comprehensive set of instruments will be installed to enable simultaneous observations across multiple wavelengths. This unique capability will give EST a higher efficiency compared to existing or future telescopes, whether ground-based or space-borne.

The largest solar telescope in Europe is a technological challenge that, once built, will keep Europe at the forefront of not only solar physics research and instrument development, but also in terms of improving space weather forecasting to mitigate the effects of solar events on our society.

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