keep a close eye on the sun

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The Asian giant has been showing its ambition in the space race for some time, and will soon take another step to advance its scientific facilities in this area.

The last one is the largest astronomical interferometer in the world. Situated in Daocheng, on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, this large array of telescopes has a clear mission: study how increasing solar activity affects our planet.

The Daocheng Solar Radio Telescope (DSRT) has had a cost of 100 million yuan (about 13.7 million euros), and is composed of 300 antennas located in a circumference of three kilometers in diameter.

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Initial testing of this facility will take place in June 2024, and will focus on imminent growth in solar activity expected in the coming years. Specifically, we want to study how solar flares affect the Earth.

This facility thus joins two recent NASA projects directed to the study of the sun. The first, the Parker probe launched in 2018 and which, after reaching enormous speeds a year ago, “touched” the Sun. The second, the Solar Orbiter which was launched in 2020 and which is beginning to reveal some of the mysteries of our star.

Radio telescopes like the DSRT are very interesting when it comes to studying the activity of the Sun’s upper atmosphere, its corona, and thus monitoring solar storms, for example.

Among the events that are expected to be analyzed are coronal mass ejections (CME, Coronal Mass Ejection), eruptions of enormously hot plasma that emit high-energy particles capable of traveling to Earth.

These radiations may end up affecting our planet’s satellites and electrical infrastructures, as demonstrated by the events of February 2022, when one of these ejections left 40 Starlink satellites out of orbit.

The new Chinese facility will be more accurate than other astronomical interferometers and will allow weaker signals to be captured of these high energy particles. Taking into account that our planet is increasingly covered by satellites, the analysis of solar activity may become critical to the success of these new “constellations”.

Image: Diana Robinson

The Asian giant has been showing its ambition in the space race for some time, and will soon take another…

The Asian giant has been showing its ambition in the space race for some time, and will soon take another…

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