EST-UKUC corner: UK Universities Consortium (UKUC) joins EST Canarian Foundation

In the UK, our solar community has been successful in including the European Solar Telescope (EST) as one of the high-priority future facilities in the recently published STFC Solar System Roadmap.

At the end of 2022, the Board of Directors (on which the UK sits) of EST voted to establish the EST Canarian Foundation as the interim legal figure for EST, with the goals of bringing on board the ministries and their representatives to work towards establishing an ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium).

Led by Sheffield, several groups in the UK including Aberystwyth, Durham, Exeter, Glasgow and QUB have made a commitment to form a UK Universities Consortium (UKUC), raised funds and on 25 July 2023 joined the Canarian Foundation for the next 2 years. Other UK institutions, e.g., UCL, have also indicated willingness and are now looking into opportunities to contribute. Further, UKUC has also successfully secured financial support from STFC to join the Canarian Foundation.

The UK currently supports developments of future benefit to EST, including participation in the TSI (Tuneable Imaging Spectropolarimeter) design, EST Data Centre design, and the development of a solar turbulence profiler and real-time control system that has applications to the adaptive optics implementations (MCAO – Multi-conjugate adaptive optics) for both DKIST and EST.

EST is an ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) project that has been designed by a consortium of 27 partners (from academia and industry) in 14 European countries. The UK community has been involved since the project began. EST will be polarimetrically compensated, and the first solar telescope to incorporate multi-conjugate adaptive optics from inception, enabling diffraction-limited observations at an unprecedented 25 km resolution, less than the photon scattering mean-free path in the photosphere. EST will provide the most sensitive diagnostics of the thermal, dynamic and magnetic properties of the plasma in the solar atmosphere, at the highest spatial resolution, and over the most scale heights available on any solar telescope, on the ground or in space. The use of beam splitters and integral field unit spectrographs will allow simultaneous high temporal resolution 2-D spectroscopy and spectropolarimetry at multiple heights in the solar atmosphere. This is currently unachievable with any other facility.

EST will also deliver an unprecedented level of data in solar physics, of the order of Pb/day, to be managed by the EST Data Centre (DC). Here, it is foreseen that the UK will have a major role in partnership with a few European institutions in the DC. Addressing the data handling will also enable various opportunities for UK industry.

Robertus Erdelyi, on behalf of EST-UKUC