World’s first mid-infrared solar facility gears up for trial stage in China

The Infrared System for the Accurate Measurement of Solar Magnetic Field (AIMS) is the name given to this new facility.
Mrigakshi Dixit
The dynamic sun.
The dynamic sun.


Our Sun is a whirlwind of hot plasma that influences the entire solar system. That is why it is critical to study it closely in order to understand in what ways the Sun controls the Earth and other planets in the solar system. 

Now, a new solar observatory is set to keep a close eye on the Sun's dynamics. The Infrared System for the Accurate Measurement of Solar Magnetic Field (AIMS) is the name given to this new facility. And this solar telescope has recently begun a test run, as per a report.

The ambient conditions

This one-of-a-kind facility will make it possible to conduct solar observations in the mid-infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, which was previously hard to do. This type of observation requires perfect ambient conditions for the telescope to collect light without being absorbed by the atmosphere. 

The incoming cosmic light can be absorbed by atmospheric gases and water vapor. In order to study the Sun and collect infrared data, the telescope must be placed in dry, high-altitude locations.  Astronomers can see wavelengths beyond the "infrared atmospheric window" (between 8 and 14 microns) at such high altitudes.

The telescope location

AIMS is the world's first mid-infrared telescope to measure the solar magnetic field, and it is located high in the mountains near Mangya City in China. This new telescope is based at the Lenghu Astronomical Observation Base on Saishenteng Mountain, which has an average elevation of 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). 

The location has a dry climate, mostly clear night skies, stable atmospheric conditions, and low water vapor levels – all creating favorable conditions for mid-infrared solar observation. 

This facility also addresses the issue of high ambient noise levels, as well as degraded detector issues. As per Universe Today, they overcame the detector issue by replacing it with “domestically made detector chips.” A detector in a telescope aids in determining the direction of light, as well as the time, brightness, and intensity of photons. Previously, astronomers and engineers encountered these issues when observing the Sun in the mid-infrared band. 

This new facility will be used by astronomers to conduct accurate observations of the Sun's powerful magnetic field, as well as mid-infrared imaging and spectral observation data. Reportedly, it can conduct “monochromatic imaging observations in the infrared band between 8 and 10 microns.” 

Close examination of the magnetic field will aid in the understanding of violent eruptions such as solar flares. 

This new observatory joins the Lenghu Astronomical Observation base's collection of 35 telescopes (some still under construction or in the planning stages). The National Astronomical Observatories of China and the Chinese Academy of Sciences operate this facility.

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