This collaboration is a trilateral (UK-US-India) research initiative set up between:
The Sun is the most important astronomical object for humankind with solar activity driving space weather and having profound effects on our climate and communications. It is important to understand such activity and the energy transfer from the solar interior to the outer atmosphere and beyond. To investigate, and ultimately predict, solar activity, we need to observe and model physical processes in the solar atmosphere in their intrinsic scales. This is vital if we want to understand how small-scale solar activity influences large scale phenomena such as large solar eruptions which have a direct impact on the terrestrial environment.
The next few years will see the development and operation of state-of-the-art ground-based solar facilities. These facilities include the US led Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), the European Solar Telescope (EST), India’s National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) etc. The large aperture and state-of-the-art instrumentation of these facilities will produce the sharpest solar images and reveal the mysteries of the Sun’s atmosphere and interior at an unprecedented level of detail. Visual Broadband Imagers will be the first light instruments in all these telescopes.
This project aims to provide sets of integrated research activities which will focus on training PhD students and PDRAs in ground based solar physics. The project will also address the challenges associated with the construction, operation and data handling of observations from the Visual Broadband Imagers (VBIs) which will be the backbone instruments on these facilities. Issues that will be addressed include the development of large format, high speed and low noise detectors, the storage and processing of data and the application of GPU based image reconstruction techniques. Addressing these issues is vital for achieving sustained diffraction limited solar imaging hence maximising the scientific return.
The UK partner, Queen’s University Belfast, has constructed and operates the ROSA imager at the Dunn Solar Telescope (DST) in New Mexico USA (see right image). The DST, operated by the US partner, is equipped with a high-order adaptive optics system and an extended instrumentation suite. The DST is the prime US facility for ground-based solar observing. The India partner, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, is building prototypes for some back end instruments for their National Large Solar Telescope (NLST). A narrow band imager and a polarimeter are currently under development.
Visual Broadband Imagers will be first light instruments in these future facilities. ROSA has been identified as a pathfinder instrument for VBIs. The flexibility provided by the Dunn Solar Telescope (DST) set-up allows ROSA to be used simultaneously with the Interferometric BIdimensional Spectrometer (IBIS). The UKIERI project plans to explore the challenges related to the development and operation of advanced instrumentation that will be used with the next generation of large aperture solar telescopes. It will foster partnerships with the high technology detector industry and facilitate knowledge transfer.
The current ROSA camera/beam splitter setup is shown below:
The exchange of ideas will stimulate solar-physics research both nationally and internationally. India has not built a major ground-based solar facility in recent decades and will build one of the biggest solar telescope of the world (2- meter class). The proposed collaborative exchanges will allow them to experience problems in the real world and the associated challenges. It will allow the early identification of high risk areas within the project and the development of an appropriate mitigation plan facilitating the on-time delivery of new instruments. With the development of these state-of-the-art facilities, man power building in terms of student training is a crucial element for future success. The mobility of the young students and post-docs will be invaluable for future development. The NLST is going to be an international facility, so early involvement of international community will be healthy for future collaboration.