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March 27, 2009

Cutaway Rendering of Proposed Solar Telescope

An artist's rendering of the proposed Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST). The telescope structure (in blue) can be seen inside the ventilated dome. Observing instruments will be located on the rotating observing platform below the telescope, two levels above the ground floor.

Technologies to resolve and measure the sun's magnetic fields and how they control the solar atmosphere will be brought together in the planned 4-meter ATST. Its optical system has an unobstructed view that minimizes scattered light, alleviates thermal issues and can probe the relatively unexplored infrared region, as well as observe both solar disk and corona. A high-order adaptive optics system--several times more powerful than that of any now in use for solar physics--will make ATST possible. Self-induced seeing effects are controlled by features such as a dome, shaped and louvered to smooth airflow around it, and an air handling system to direct flows from ceiling to floor to control dust and turbulence.

ATST will provide unprecedented views of solar magnetic structure and activity. Solving this "dark energy" problem of solar physics lies beyond the capabilities of current solar telescopes. These answers will become the key to understanding solar variability and its direct impact on Earth. ATST will use the sun as a stellar laboratory in our astrophysical backyard, where crucial properties of magnetic plasma can be observed and understood, and models can be tested and refined. To learn more, visit the NSO/ATST website, here. (Date of Image: unknown)

Credit: LeEllen Phelps/National Solar Observatory/AURA/NSF

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