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China's AIMS telescope achieves unprecedented accuracy in solar observations
The Accurate Infrared Magnetic Field Measurements of the Sun (AIMS) telescope.
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China's AIMS telescope achieves unprecedented accuracy in solar observations
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Jan 31, 2024

In a significant advancement in solar observation, the Accurate Infrared Magnetic Field Measurements of the Sun (AIMS) telescope, a pioneering project supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, has reached a new milestone. Located in Lenghu township, Qinghai Province, at an elevation of approximately 4,000 meters, AIMS stands as the world's first solar magnetic-field telescope operating in the mid-infrared wavelength.

Chief Engineer Wang Dongguang of the Huairou Solar Observing Station, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, revealed that the AIMS telescope has conducted the first-ever precise measurements of solar vector magnetic fields with an accuracy surpassing the 10 Gauss level. This achievement is particularly noteworthy as it represents a substantial leap from indirect to direct measurement techniques in the century-long pursuit of understanding solar magnetic fields.

"The telescope has achieved the expected goal of directly measuring the solar magnetic field intensity in the mid-infrared band using a super narrow-band Fourier spectrometer," stated Wang, underscoring the technological prowess embodied in AIMS. This breakthrough overcomes a longstanding bottleneck in solar magnetic field measurements, transitioning from inference-based methods to direct observation.

The AIMS telescope, unique in its dedication to observing the mid-infrared solar magnetic field, is poised to unravel mysteries of the Sun in this specific wavelength range. Senior Engineer Feng Zhiwei, also from the National Astronomical Observatories, highlighted the innovative solutions employed in the telescope's design.

"Through optical design to eliminate stray light and technologies such as vacuum cooling, we have solved the challenges faced by infrared solar observations in this band, such as high environmental background noise and detector performance degradation," Feng explained.

Feng further elaborated that the infrared imaging terminal of the telescope comprises three integral systems: infrared optics, a focal plane array detector, and vacuum cooling. Notably, all components, including the domestically produced detector chip, reflect China's growing expertise in high-tech manufacturing and astronomical research.

Beyond its primary role in measuring solar magnetic fields, the AIMS telescope is set to explore new scientific avenues in the middle-infrared band. This capability is crucial given the solar magnetic field's impact on various solar phenomena like sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections. Accurate measurements of the solar magnetic field are vital for understanding these phenomena and potentially predicting solar activity, which can have significant effects on Earth, such as impacting satellite operations and power grids.

The AIMS telescope represents a significant stride in China's contributions to astronomical research and the global understanding of our Sun. The AIMS project exemplifies the integration of advanced technology and scientific innovation, setting a new standard for future endeavors in solar magnetic field observation.

Related Links
National Natural Science Foundation of China
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily

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