This website has been developed and is being maintained on behalf of ESFRI by the StR-ESFRI project which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement n° 654213
An advanced telescope for observing the Sun and its magnetic activity
The European Solar Telescope (EST) is a 4-metre class telescope dedicated to study the fundamental processes in the Sun that control the solar atmosphere and its activity and the physical conditions in the heliosphere. EST will be optimized for high-resolution multi-wavelength simultaneous multi-instrument observations of the photosphere and chromosphere, as well as magnetic structures therein. One aim is to address the still unresolved and difficult question concerning the emergence of magnetic fields at the solar surface and transfer of magnetic and kinetic energy from subsurface layers to the solar atmosphere. This is the key question for understanding how the magnetic field is controlling the solar atmosphere and its activity. As the Sun is the only star at which photospheric and chromospheric features can be resolved, these observations will be of astrophysical wide relevance. Understanding the interaction of plasmas with magnetic fields has many technological application, e.g. in fusion nuclear reactors. Space missions are also tributary of data from ground solar telescopes.
In the ESFRI Roadmap since 2016, EST will enter the Implementation Phase in 2021. First light is planned for 2027.
The solar physics community was involved in the development of the project from the beginning: i) creation of the EAST consortium, ii) elaboration of the conceptual design study, iii) I3 Trans-National Access network SOLARNET and iv) GREST project. The solar astronomy community is organized through SOLARNET and ASTRONET and operates with success, since the last decades, a set of national observing facilities and infrastructures on the Canary Islands including the Swedish Solar Telescope, the DOT, the VTT, GREGOR and THEMIS, most of which are approaching the end-of life stage. These national observatories shall be decommissioned or reoriented to become test facilities for detector development or to educational programmes, and the research programme shall concentrate on the EST. Key elements of the landscape are the space missions, in particular the ESA Solar Orbiter programme to be launched in 2018, and the US Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST, formally the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope ATST), currently being built in Hawaii. DKIST is an asymmetric telescope with an observation programme concentrated on the Sun’s corona and linked with space missions.
EST has the same diameter (4m) but it is symmetric and optimized to detect light polarization as it is mandatory for the study of the emergence of magnetic fields at the solar surface and transfer of magnetic and kinetic energy from subsurface layers to the solar atmosphere. A significant advance can be achieved by obtaining observations, of the lower/cooler part of the solar atmosphere, with greatly improved spatial and temporal resolutions. The behaviour of the solar atmosphere in response to the input of magnetic energy is then observable with space instrumentation. The combination of space and ground-based instrumentation will allow a throughout comprehension of the solar magnetic dynamics.
EST will be built in the Canary Islands, where the current aging telescopes are already situated. This will give continuity and increase the importance of the scientific parks existing at present in the islands. Operation of the telescope will progressively implement queue mode observing, which is standard for night-time telescopes, allows optimisation of the observations, and does not require on-site presence of the beneficiary. 30% of the observing time will be through open calls for proposals, and the open access data policy – after a one-year proprietary period – allows access to the whole interested scientific community.
Siting will be decided between the Tenerife or Roque de los Muchachos both at 2.400 m of altitude in the Canary Islands along with sea-level and mainland facilities including the Telescope Operation and Science Center (TOSC) to steer the operation of the EST and the Science Data Center in Germany, to provide data storage and access to the solar physics community.
Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias
Canary Islands, Spain