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UH receives major contract for Inouye Solar Telescope instrument

Cryogenic Near Infrared Spectropolarimeter

A rendering of the Cryogenic Near Infrared Spectropolarimeter that will be used to measure how the magnetic fields on the sun affect the near-Earth space environment. Credit: IfA/UH

The National Science Foundation and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) have announced the award of a major contract to the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy to build the Cryogenic Near Infrared Spectropolarimeter (CryoNIRSP) for the new solar telescope, which is now under construction on Haleakala.

This complex $5 million instrument will allow astronomers to measure the solar magnetism beyond the sun in order to understand how that energy interacts with Earth’s space environment. It will be built at the UH Advanced Technology Research Center on Maui and will be completed in time for first-light observations with DKIST in 2019.

The CryoNIRSP team on Maui is led by Principal Investigator Jeff Kuhn, Project Manager Tim Bond, and Instrument Scientist Andre Fehlmann.

 A close-up view of the sun’s edge shows vast loop structures made of superheated plasma, just one of which is the size of several Earths. These loops reach into space and can affect Earth’s environment. The IfA instrument will reveal new information about how these form and interact with the Earth-sun environment. Courtesy of NASA SDO instrument teams.

A close-up view of the sun’s edge shows vast loop structures made of superheated plasma, just one of which is the size of several Earths. These loops reach into space and can affect Earth’s environment. The IfA instrument will reveal new information about how these form and interact with the Earth-sun environment. Courtesy of NASA SDO instrument teams.

“The CryoNIRSP instrument will be one of the largest astronomical instruments the IfA has built. It will provide the international community with a detector that brings nighttime sensitivity for observing the relatively faint outer atmosphere of the sun to the world’s largest daytime telescope,” said Kuhn.

“It is the sun’s magnetism that causes most of the sun’s influence on Earth. We know it controls the explosive energy release from the sun that damages our technology and the sun’s brightness variability that affects our climate,” added Kuhn.

The DKIST was formerly known as the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST). It was renamed in honor of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye in December 2013.

Source:  An Institute for Astronomy news release

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