Sun-watchers hope giant telescope will get green light
Observatory would reveal structures that trigger sunspots and space weather.
Close and bright though it is, the Sun still defies a thorough understanding. One reason is that some of the features on its roiling surface are too small and short-lived to be studied even by the world’s largest solar telescopes.
That will change if the US National Solar Observatory (NSO) proceeds with its latest project — the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), a Sun-gazing behemoth due to be built on the summit of Haleakala, the highest peak on the Hawaiian island of Maui. This month, an officially appointed arbiter will weigh the scientists’ goals against objections raised by conservationists and Native Hawaiian groups to decide whether the US$298-million project can break ground later this year.
With more than twice the aperture of existing solar telescopes (see ‘Eyes on the Sun’), the 4-metre ATST will be large enough to tease out small structures on the Sun, particularly magnetic flux tubes — the hitherto unseen precursors to sunspots. Sunspots, in turn, give rise to giant coronal loops and flares, which can unleash bursts of radiation and cause magnetic disturbances that sometimes threaten spacecraft, communication networks and power grids.
More at Nature News, h/t to Leif Svalgaard
More on ATST here.