Science

China is building a huge ring of telescopes to study solar eruptions

China is building the world’s largest set of solar telescopes to improve understanding of coronal mass ejections that could wreak havoc on and above Earth.

The Daocheng Solar Radio Telescope (DSRT) is being built on a plateau in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. When completed, it will consist of 313 plates, each 19.7 feet (6 meters) in diameter, forming a circle with a circumference of 1.95 miles (3.14 kilometers).

An array of telescopes will image the sun in radio waves to study coronal mass ejections (CMEs), large ejections of charged particles from the sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona.

CMEs are caused by rearrangements in the star’s magnetic field that occur in sunspots. Directed at Earth, these eruptions can damage power grids, telecommunications, orbiting satellites, and even compromise the safety of astronauts. On the other hand, CMEs are also responsible for the colorful displays of auroras that can be observed in the night sky in the polar regions.

Related: Satellites can disappear during major solar storms and it could take weeks to find them

Published footage from the construction of DSRT (will open in a new tab)Chinese News Service in June. South China Morning Post (will open in a new tab) reported that the array is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

The development is part of a ground-based network for monitoring the space environment called the Chinese Meridian. (will open in a new tab) (Phase II).

The project also includes a Chinese spectral radioheliograph under construction to monitor solar activity. (will open in a new tab)in Inner Mongolia.

The radioheliograph will consist of 100 dishes arranged in a three-armed spiral and will study the Sun at a wider frequency range than DSRT to further Chinese research on the Sun, solar physics and space weather.

The entire project aims to use about 300 instruments deployed at 31 stations across China at specific latitudes and longitudes. It is led by the National Space Science Center (NSSC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and more than 10 institutions and universities in China participate in it.

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