New German telescope will illuminate the sun | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 22.05.2012
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New German telescope will illuminate the sun

A new German-built telescope called Gregor will help researchers observe the sun better than before, and will deliver images of the solar core. It's just been unveiled on Tenerife.

German Gregor telescope on island of Tenerife

German Gregor telescope on island of Tenerife

After 10 years of planning, Europe's largest telescope is now operational on Tenerife, off the coast of Spain. It will allow researchers to observe the sun in ways they were unable to with older, conventional telescopes.

Using conventional telescopes, it was impossible to observe the solar core. The telescope mirrors tended to overheat and fail in the glare, producing warm air that hampered vision.

It's hoped the new mega-telescope, Gregor, will change that and deliver images of unprecedented quality and resolution.

The telescope, which is made of the lithium aluminosilicate glass-ceramic, Zerodur, will be constantly cooled. And sea breezes on Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, will blow away any haze that could otherwise interfere with visibility.

Gregor will also be operated at night to seek out and study other stars in the universe that resemble our sun.

Understanding the sun

Astronomers say the new telescope will allow them to investigate even small-scale physical processes on the sun - up to a depth of 70 Kilometers. The powerful telescope will measure the magnetic field of the sun and its effect on the Earth.

The telescope facility, which cost about 10 million euros ($12.8 million), rests upon the Pico de Teide, Spain's highest peak.

Gregor telescope on island of Tenerife

Conditions on the Pico de Teide are ideal for observing the sun

The main mirror has a diameter of 1.5 meters, making the telescope Europe's largest. It is the third-largest telescope in the world.

Several German firms are tasked with running the facility, including the Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics in Freiburg, the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam, the Institute for Astrophysics in Göttingen and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau.

Its project leader, Reiner Volkmer, says the sun is the "prototype of all stars."

"When we understand the sun, we'll understand other stars as well," Volkmer said.

Author: Andreas Sten-Ziemons / sad
Editor: Zulfikar Abbany

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