Robotic Solar Telescopes

(supervisor: Huw Morgan)

Nature of project: experimental, experimental

Available to full-time physicists only.

Project description and methodology

This project is jointly supervised with Steve Fearn.

Our solar telescopes (observing in both white light and H-alpha) are designed to automatically track the sun throughout the day. The aim of this project is to develop the instrumentation facilities and software to enable future researchers to analyze solar activity in the different wavelengths. Students are expected to have a good background knowledge on Instrumentation, Labview and software development, as well as solar astronomy. The project will also include photographic/video evidence cataloging and analysis of solar activity throughout the project, subject to weather and solar activity. Particular interest will be the daily movement of sunspots at the different wavelengths, observations of prominences in H-alpha, and any other activity.

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
Application of image stacking procedures to improve image quality. Consideration of dark and flat field corrections to the observations. Comparison of observations with observations by space-based telescopes.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

Additional scope or challenge if taken as a Year-4 project: 4th year student would be expected to compare in detail features found using the solar telescopes (for example sunspots or prominences) with the same features observed using space-based observatories (for example, AIA or HMI on SDO)

Initial literature for students:

  1. Guide to the Sun, Kenneth Phillips; Cambridge University Press, 1995
  2. Physics of the Solar Corona, Marcus Aschwanden (Introductory chapters); Springer Science & Business Media, 2006
  3. Magnetohydrodynamics of the Sun, Eric Priest (Introductory chapters); Cambridge University Press, 2014

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

The solar telescopes are installed into the facility and engineering is complete. Installation of electronics is ongoing. This is a particularly difficult project requiring a hands-on approach to the instrumentation, requiring alignment of scopes, accurate tracking, video capture of all scopes simultaneously, Labview and Ascom software. And final display of operating facility. This will require assistance and project guidelines in the first place from Steve Fearn.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Overall operation and guidelines understoodend of October
Developement of requirements and softwareChristmas
Preliminary operation of facilitiesend of October
Full operational facilities and data availableEaster

Students taking this project will have to submit a full risk assessment form