Press Release

Europe’s largest solar telescope sees first sunlight

By SpaceRef Editor
March 3, 2002
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The Institute for Solar Physics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
announces that its new solar telescope on the island of La Palma, Spain, will have
first light on Saturday March 2. The telescope design includes a technique that
counteracts blurring caused by the atmosphere. This will enable the researchers
to see and photograph details of smaller size than previously possible.

The new telescope will address current and important questions concerning solar
magnetic fields and the dynamics of the upper solar atmosphere and also be used to
improve our understanding of the formation of stellar spectra.

The front lens of the telescope has a diameter of just less than 1 meter, making it the
largest optical solar telescope in Europe and the second in the world, after the
McMath-Pierce telescope in Arizona, USA. Located on the best-known site for solar
telescopes in the world, it is expected to see details as small as 70 km on the solar
surface. This requires the use of a so-called adaptive mirror that 1 000 times per second
corrects for the blurring caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. The new telescope is the
first solar telescope that is designed for use with such a mirror. The adaptive optics
system will be installed during April following optical verification tests. The telescope is
expected to be operational at the end of April.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is perhaps best known for the Nobel Prize, but
also operates seven scientific institutes (in Sweden and on La Palma). Its President,
Professor Janne Carlsson, the Secretary General, Professor Erling Norrby, Mr. Kai-Inge
Hillerud, Executive secretary, and the Institute Director, Professor Gšran Scharmer will
be present during the informal event. The telescope is operated by the Academy but
located within the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de
Astrofisica de Canarias on the island of La Palma, Spain. The telescope replaces a
previous 50 cm telescope that has been a world leading solar research instrument for
over ten years.

The telescope has been funded mainly by the Academy and three private foundations in
Sweden. The telescope will operate in collaboration with the Institute of Theoretical
Astrophysics in Oslo, Norway and other international partners.

Further information:

See or contact Gšran Scharmer at or on telephone +34 922 40 55 91.

SpaceRef staff editor.