China is building the world's largest array of telescopes dedicated to studying the sun with the aim to improve the understanding of coronal mass ejections which can cause chaos on and above Earth. The Daocheng Solar Radio Telescope (DSRT) is under construction on a plateau in Sichuan province, southwest China. When completed, it will consist of 313 dishes, each with a diameter of 19.7 feet (6 meters), forming a circle with a circumference of 1.95 miles (3.14 kilometers). The telescope array will image the sun in radio waves to study coronal mass ejections (CMEs), large eruptions of charged particles from the sun's upper atmosphere, and the corona.
CMEs are triggered by realignments in the star's magnetic field that occur in sunspots. When directed at Earth, these eruptions can wreak havoc on power grids, telecommunications, orbiting satellites, and even put the safety of astronauts at risk. On the other hand, CMEs are also responsible for the colorful aurora displays that can be observed in the night sky in polar regions.
Images from the construction of the DSRT were published (opens in new tab)by China News Service in June. The South China Morning Post reported that the array is on schedule to be completed by the end of this year. The development is part of a ground-based space environment monitoring network called the Chinese Meridian Project (Phase II). The project also includes the Chinese Spectral Radioheliograph for monitoring solar activity, which is being constructed in Inner Mongolia.
The radioheliograph will consist of 100 dishes in a three-arm spiral arrangement and will study the sun in a wider band of frequencies than DSRT to further Chinese research on the sun, solar physics, and space weather. The entire project aims to run close to 300 instruments deployed at 31 stations across China at specific longitudes and latitudes. It is led by the National Space Science Center (NSSC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and involves more than 10 institutions and universities in China.