University of Sheffield scientists helping to build world’s biggest telescope

Artist's impression of world's biggest telescope
Artist's impression of world's biggest telescope
Have your say

Sheffield scientists are reaching for the stars with their latest project - helping to build the world’s largest telescope.

A University of Sheffield team is building cameras for a £344 million ‘super telescope’.

Artist's impression of world's biggest telescope

Artist's impression of world's biggest telescope

With a four-metre diameter primary mirror, the telescope 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 100km away.

The new telescope, which will be unveiled in 2019, will provide unprecedented insight into the physics of the surface and atmosphere of the sun and will improve the forecasting of space weather hazards.

It is being constructed by the US National Solar Observatory in Hawaii.

Professor Michail Balikhin, from the University of Sheffield, said: “The development of this telescope provides great potential for us to make earlier forecasts of space weather hazards, such as identifying solar winds which can cause huge disruption to life on earth.

“Our Space System Laboratory in Sheffield has a well-established track record in space weather forecasting using a spacecraft situated about 1.5 million kilometres from our planet.

“At the moment this enables us to identify space weather, such as solar wind velocities, approximately one hour before they reach earth, but once this telescope is built we may be able to significantly extend this time.”

Dr Viktor Fedun, from the university’s Solar Wave Theory Group, added: “The new high-resolution cameras used by the telescope will provide an unprecedented amount of solar image data.

“Researchers at Sheffield will use their leading expertise in numerical modelling of plasma processes to develop new algorithms and numerical techniques to process the data observed from the new telescope which will be really impactful to the UK science community and beyond.”

Professor Robertus von Fay-Siebenburgen, of the university’s Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre, said: “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.”