Answering the big questions in science using the world's largest solar telescope

Telescope

The largest solar telescope on Earth is to be built with our expertise.

The revolutionary telescope will provide an insight into the physics and atmosphere of the surface of the Sun and could help uncover new sources of clean energy.

The Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) will be launched in spring 2019 on Haleakala mountain in Maui, Hawaii. Its four-metre diameter mirror will be able to pick up unprecedented detail on the surface of the Sun, the equivalent of being able to examine a £1 coin from 100 kilometers away.

The telescope will be the most powerful in the world. The Sun's atmosphere is a living laboratory and we will be able to study it in detail. This will help us understand how the Sun's fusion creates energy and this, in turn, will potentially help us recreate this process on earth as a source of clean energy.

Professor Robertus von Fay-Siebenburgen, head of SP2RC

This data will be captured on high-resolution cameras developed by scientists from the University of Sheffield.

DKIST will provide high-speed spectroscopic and magnetic measurements of the solar photosphere, chromosphere and corona - the layers of the Sun's atmosphere.

With this technology, solar physicists can address one of the biggest questions in science: why the Sun's atmosphere is hotter than its surface. It will also help scientists understand how the Sun's nuclear-fusion reactions create energy. This knowledge will potentially enable scientists replicate this process on earth as a form of clean energy.

Professor Robertus von Fay-Siebenburgen, head of SP2RC (Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre) at the University, is one of the lead scientists involved in the development of DKIST. He said: "The telescope will be the most powerful in the world. The Sun's atmosphere is a living laboratory and we will be able to study it in detail. This will help us understand how the Sun's fusion creates energy and this, in turn, will potentially help us recreate this process on earth as a source of clean energy."

The telescope will also improve the forecasting of space weather hazards, such as solar flares.

Professor von Fay-Siebenburgen said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to significantly improve the forecasting of Space Weather. In 1989 a particularly large amount of energetic solar plasma material was ejected from the Sun towards the Earth, which damaged satellites and electrical transmission facilities, as well as causing disruption to communications systems. The understanding and prediction of space weather is vitally important in the age of human exploration of the Solar System and the development of this new telescope will enable us to predict space weather events much earlier.

"It's also a great facility for early career scientists in the UK and will pave the way for Sheffield to remain at the forefront of solar plasma research."

DKIST is being developed by a consortium of universities, including the University of Sheffield and Queens University, Belfast. Together, these institutions will oversee the development and delivery of the telescope's cameras and lead the UK’s solar physics community in their use of DKIST.

The telescope will be the most powerful in the world. The Sun's atmosphere is a living laboratory and we will be able to study it in detail. This will help us understand how the Sun's fusion creates energy and this, in turn, will potentially help us recreate this process on earth as a source of clean energy.

School of Mathematics and Statistics (SoMaS)

Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre (SP2RC)