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Astrophysics Research Centre

School of Mathematics and Physics

UKIERI collaboration in Solar Physics

This collaboration is a trilateral (UK-US-India) research initiative set up between:

Overview of the Project

The Sun-Earth magnetic fields

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.

Dunn Solar Telescope

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:

Key Activities in the Project

  • Review the existing ROSA instrument design, including data acquisition and pipeline.
  • Investigate how the existing setup may be modified to address the scientific and technical requirements for the next generation ground-based imaging instruments.
  • Investigate observational scheduling modes fixed over queue/service scheduling.
  • Assess the current state-of-the-art in detector technology and propose modifications to existing systems that will meet the new science requirements.
  • Provide training for research students and young scientists who will form the new generation of solar scientists.
  • The training will be a major part of the proposed activity and will include:
    1. Setting up and testing of the relevant cameras and computer systems
    2. Data acquisition, storage and transfer to external media
    3. Data reduction including post-facto image reconstruction
    4. Interpretation of the observations.
  • New generation ROSA type broad-band imagers, their operational constraints at a remote site like the Himalayas will also be assessed, modelled, and planned in India.
  • Data transfer, pipeline, hosting, assimilation and distribution of data publicly through web portals and virtual observatories will be taken up at IIA.
  • IIA is also developing a narrow band imager similar to IBIS, the exchanges between the US team and Indian team will be crucial in the building of this dual Fabry Perrot system.

Outcomes of the Project

  • Establish a formal forum for collaboration between the three institutes and countries.
  • Enhance the mobility of PhD students and PDRAs.
  • Train PhD students and PDRAs on state-of-the-art solar instrumentation and techniques.
  • Establish links with the detector industry and make them aware of the technological demands associated with the new generation of solar telescopes.
  • Application of analytical and numerical models to solar observations.
  • Development of different reconstruction techniques suitable for proposed imaging instrument.
  • Increase public awareness of the subject.
  • Early involvement of reputed international groups in the NLST project.

Other Project Benefits

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.

public/research_areas/solar_physics/ukieri.txt · Last modified: 2013/09/06 14:01 by rryans

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