China has finished building the world's largest array of telescopes dedicated to studying the sun and how its behavior impacts the Earth.
The Daocheng Solar Radio Telescope (DSRT), which is located on a plateau in southwest China's Sichuan province, is made up of 313 dishes, each with a diameter of 19.7 feet and forming a circle with a circumference of 1.95 miles.
After alignment and joint testing, the enormous array will begin pilot operations in June 2023. It is only one of several new solar monitoring initiatives underway around the world.
The main objective of DSRT is to observe solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which can overwhelm electronics, interfere with communications, and cause havoc on and above Earth. When directed at Earth, CMEs, which are brought on by realignments in the magnetic field of the star that take place in sunspots, can endanger power grids, telecommunications, satellites in orbit, and even the safety of astronauts on board the International Space Station and China's recently completed Tiangong space station.
"We can forecast whether a solar storm bursts toward the Earth," Wu Lin, deputy chief designer, Ring Array Solar Radio Imaging Telescope Project, told CCTV+. "If it bursts toward the Earth and will reach us, we will be able to issue early warning to such a solar storm. In this way, we can provide space environment forecasts for normal operation of satellites in space and power grids on ground."
Solar flares and CMEs, on the other hand, are responsible for the colorful aurora phenomena that may be observed in the night sky near polar latitudes.
Having observatories in China would also provide significant data on solar activities that telescopes in other time zones may not see, said Ding Mingde, a solar physicist at Nanjing University, emphasizing the necessity of global cooperation in this field.
"We are entering the golden age of solar astronomy as we have lots of major solar telescopes coming online," Maria Kazachenko, a solar physicist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told Nature.
DSRT is a component of the Chinese Meridian Project, a two-step ground-based space environment monitoring network.
The project's first phase (Phase I) comprises 15 observation stations positioned roughly along 120°E longitude and 30°N latitude. The project's second phase (Phase II) will also include the deployment of 16 stations to better cover China's land, as well as the development of a stereo monitoring capability to monitor the cause and effect of the space weather chain in the solar terrestrial system.