Funding for UK access to the Swedish Solar Telescope in 2019

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics


The UK solar physics community had access to the Swedish Solar Telescope (SST) up until 2016 via the EU-funded SOLARNET agreement. This facility is excellent, as witnessed by the UK community's very successful SOLARNET exploitation, with 9 papers in major international journals published or in press since the start of 2017 alone, such as Mooroogen et al. 2017, A&A, 607, A46. In addition, 6 PhDs that employed SST observations have been submitted by, or awarded to, students in UK universities since the start of 2016.

However, with the termination of SOLARNET, this also ended the UK access to the SST. Staff at Queen's University therefore applied to STFC for partial funding to purchase 20 days of time on the SST during 2017, with the remaining costs being borne by Queen's, Armagh Observatory, and the Universities of Sheffield and Northumbria. The STFC proposal was funded, and the 20 days of time scheduled in 2 x 10 day blocks in June and August/September 2017.

The 20 days of SST time was for the UK community, not for Queen's University and the other SST funders. Accordingly, we issued a Call for Proposals in December 2016, with 12 proposals received. These were each assessed by 2 independent referees, before being considered by a UK SST Time Allocation Panel. Observations for successful proposals were undertaken by Queen's and other experienced UK SST observers, effectively in service mode. Over 68 TB of data were obtained, which are being reduced at Queen's and then communicated to proposal PIs. The first reduced dataset was released in Janary 2018, and to date about 20 TB of data have been reduced.

Such was the popularity of the 2017 SST time with the UK community that we requested another 19 days in 2018, funded primarily by STFC with some contributions from Queen's and Armagh Observatory. Once again, we issued a Call for Proposals (in January 2018), and have received 11 applications. The observing time has been scheduled for May and July/August 2018.

Given the continued strong interest in the UK to exploit the SST - providing not just excellent science but also vital preparatory work for UK time on the 4-m DKIST telescope - we now seek funding from STFC to purchase another 18 days of time in 2019. The cost is 57,600 Euros, equivalent to 51,264 pounds using the Euro/pound exchange rate as at 14 March 2018.

Planned Impact

Impact related to this proposal will be primarily in public understanding of science and other outreach activities in solar physics. Queen's University and other UK solar physics groups are highly active in outreach linked to their solar physics programmes. For example, Queen's University hosts annual events for 5th- and 6th-form schoolchildren, as well as public talks, which discuss our research on the solar atmosphere.


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Description Funding for UK access to the Swedish Solar Telescope in 2019
Amount £51,679 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/S001182/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2018 
End 02/2019
Description Collaborative agreement for purchase of Swedish Solar Telescope Time 2017 - 2019 
Organisation Stockholm University
Country Sweden 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Part-funding to purchase time on the Swedish Solar Telescope (SST) for use by the UK solar physics community during calendar years 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Collaborator Contribution UK partners - Armagh Observatory, Sheffield University and Northumbria University - also provided a financial contribution to purchase the SST time. There is also an agreement between Queen's University Belfast and Stockholm University for the purchase of the SST time from the latter.
Impact The agreement covers the provision of time on the SST only; exploitation of this time, and resultant publications etc, are the responsibility of the relevant UK teams who have been allocated time. They will hence report on the outcomes of their SST time awards in their own Researchfish submissions.
Start Year 2016