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Working Papers: Astronomy and Astrophysics Panel Reports
mentioned, the US costs will be less than $20M, so that the LEST telescope will be an extremely cost-effective investment for the United States.
The LEST telescope is in a very mature state of design: It has been under study for nearly a decade, and more than 40 technical reports have been written on its design, scientific rationale, instrumentation, and site selection. A superb, proven, and developed site in the Canary Islands has now been selected.
The Solar Panel recommends in the strongest terms the rapid completion of the Adaptive Optics program, key to the success of LEST, followed by the funding of the US share of the LEST construction and annual operating costs.
188.8.131.52Infrared Facility Development
The infrared solar spectrum offers several unique ways to study solar magnetohydrodynamics. The opacity minimum at 1.6 microns gives us the deepest look into the solar photosphere. At 1.2 microns, the emission lines arising from highly-excited states of magnesium, aluminum and other elements allow an unambiguous measurement of the strength of magnetic fields for most known features of the lower solar atmosphere. A powerful advantage for magnetic field research in the infrared is the quadratic wavelength variation of Zeeman splitting. This means that Zeeman components are cleanly separated at moderate field strengths and uncertain modeling of blended line profiles can be avoided. This advantage applies even with only moderate angular resolution. The McMath telescope of the National Solar Observatory is well suited to infrared solar research and, accordingly, several institutions are developing focal-plane instruments with modest resources to measure magnetic fields in the infrared. These efforts should be accelerated by increased funding to a level of about $150K per annum.
The promise of the solar infrared for magnetic and other investigations is so great that a larger telescope than the 1.5m McMath is urgently needed. The need follows from the improvement of seeing that occurs in the infrared, combined with the decreasing resolution of a fixed aperture at increasing wavelength. Another reason for a larger aperture is the decreasing photon flux per spectrum line doppler width in the infrared. Three options are available, and all should be investigated: (a) join with our nighttime colleagues in construction of a 10m class telescope capable (with suitable protection) of doing solar infrared daytime work, (b) construct a new, large-aperture solar infrared telescope, and (c) upgrade the McMath telescope to a 4m aperture. It is well-worth aggressively pursuing all of these options. We do note however that the first option has the attraction that it is likely to be cost-effective for both the night-time and solar communities, and it would foster much-needed scientific interaction; similar cooperation would also obtain for the McMath upgrade, as this telescope could also be used to great advantage for stellar observations, in particular for asteroseismology. The singular attraction of the second option is that the telescope could be designed to do an optimum job from the start, and it could be placed in an excellent infrared site. The third option offers a rapid intermediate solution (in both cost and capability) to the need; the main experimental compromise is that it falls short of the desired angular resolution in the 12-micron region. The cost estimate for a 4m primary and 6m tracking mirror system (using cooled, actively-supported aluminum mirrors) is $7M, including instrument upgrades and a 25% contingency. As already noted, this option also would provide an upgraded facility for solar-stellar research.
The Solar Panel recommends that detailed definition studies be carried out in the near future on the several approaches to development of infrared facilities, and that development of an appropriate facility be carried out later in the decade.
During this decade ground-based instrumentation offers the only practical approach to measurement of vector magnetic fields and electric fields in the photosphere and chromosphere and high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of the corona, both during and outside of solar eclipses. These moderate initiatives are all of sufficiently small scale to allow them to be accomplished from a healthy grants program at NSF. Our goal here is simply to list examples without assigning priority order: The peer-review process, not this document, should determine when and how they are done.
In arbitrary order, the most important moderate initiatives include:
Global Solar Dynamics
The relationship between large-scale flow fields and long-term trends in solar activity is largely unexplored. The initial observations of ''torsional oscillations" have been confirmed: The torsional oscillation represents a zone of enhanced latitudinal shear, and its migration from the poles to the equator is definitely