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Preparatory Phase for the European Solar Telescope

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PRE-EST (Preparatory Phase for the European Solar Telescope)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-07-31

The inclusion of EST in the 2016 ESFRI roadmap favoured the right moment to begin the EST Preparatory Phase. Relevant actions are being taken now in order to provide both, the EST consortium and their funding agencies, with a detailed plan regarding the implementation of EST. Thus, PRE-EST key goals are:
1. to explore possible legal frameworks and related governance schemes that can be used by agencies to jointly establish, construct and operate EST
2. to explore funding schemes and funding sources for EST
3. to compare the two possible sites for EST in the Canary Islands Astronomical Observatories and prepare final site agreements
4. to engage funding agencies and policy makers for a long-term commitment which guarantees the construction and operation phases of the Telescope;
5. to involve industry in the design of EST key elements
6. to enhance and intensify outreach activities and strategic links with national agencies and the user communities of EST.
EST’s main mission is to closely observe the sun. This close observation of solar processes depends on instrumentation which can deliver data at the smallest scales, with the greatest detail possible. By peering into the physical mechanisms of the solar atmosphere, down to the smallest possible detail, EST will address long-standing questions such as: the structure and evolution of solar magnetic fields, including sunspots; the emergence of magnetic fields through the solar surface; the dynamics and heating of the chromosphere; the trigger mechanism of flares and the magnetic coupling of the solar atmosphere. These studies are crucial to understand the modulation of the properties of the interplanetary medium by the solar activity and, ultimately, will improve our knowledge of space weather and its impact on the Earth’s environment.
Important efforts have been made to provide the necessary information to allow national funding agencies to make decisions and confront the future steps for making EST a reality. The EST consortium has devoted key actions during the last years to explore possible legal frameworks and related governance schemes in order to provide the means for national agencies to jointly establish, construct and operate EST. After a thorough comparative analysis, the EST Board agrees that the ERIC is the most appropriate structure. The ERIC negotiation process is expected to be initiated among the corresponding governmental authorities of the EST partners during the PRE-EST timeline. Draft statutes that can be presented to the funding agencies have been produced. A Board of Directors, formed by representatives of the EST partner institutions and national funding agencies, has been established as new governing body of PRE-EST, with the aim of boosting the involvement of national funding authorities in the project. To be ready for an Interim Phase, different options for an EST legal figure have been analysed.

Important efforts have been deployed to maintain EST’s pan-European communication strategy. The EST Communication Office has directly performed or coordinated a wide range of activities to reach EST relevant stakeholders. Through these activities, the project has also approached new audiences, such as amateur astronomers, the educational community and the ESFRI community, broadening its reach and achieving an effective communication of the relevance of EST.
The telescope design has been revamped and optimised. It now includes a modern large (800 mm diameter) adaptive secondary mirror. EST will be the first solar telescope to incorporate such an innovative technology. Science benchmark has been carried and European experts have worked together analysing the final scientific requirements for EST. The outcome has provided more precise estimates of the capabilities of EST to address key science issues, and ensure that EST delivers the expected significant scientific advancement beyond the current state-of-the-art in the field. Following these combined works, the instrument suite has been revised to include the most modern technologies, especially in the field of 2D spectroscopy thanks to the prototypes developed, and adequately tested at telescopes, in previous EST-related EU-funded projects.
The status of EST has been presented to key stakeholders at national level in order to let them know the opportunities offered by EST as a singular research infrastructure and its future needs.
The EST Project Office has been established with the goal of getting ready for the construction and operation of the telescope in an optimal way. The Project team is working side by side with the science team to define the technical requirements of the telescope based on the scientific requirements. Steps towards the decision of the construction site have already been realized. A site proposal has been proposed to the relevant committees of the Canarian Observatories.
An important effort is being done to involve European industry in the Preparatory Phase, defining collaboration agreements and working on the preparation of upcoming industrial calls. Site testing activity and definition of subsystem specifications for preliminary design of telescope mechanics have also been carried out.
Under a technical point of view, and after the changes introduced in the telescope design and instrumentation, EST is a state of the art facility that uses the most recent advances which, in turn, will lead to a more efficient scientific facility to accomplish its science objectives. Key elements will be designed within PRE-EST with the goal of having the complete final construction proposal in 2022.
Benefits in terms of capacity and capability enhancement, as well as direct economic and indirect societal impacts are also expected. EST will generate positive impacts at medium and long term in aspects such as education and economy. The technology required to make EST happen will be developed all over Europe, favouring new jobs and industry as it goes along.
These new technology and innovation opportunities will directly bring about 200 M€ for the construction of EST, besides the operation costs (6% of the construction costs over 30 years lifetime), and will have a ripple effect over other economic activities (technical supplies, basic support infrastructures, maintenance service, tourism, start-up’s, spin-off’s ...). At local and European level it is expected also a considerable increase in training activities related to solar physics research.
As part of the backbone of the ERA, EST will be a driver for the economic development of the countries involved in its construction, favouring the creation of more competitive economies and boosting economic recovery in times of crisis by revitalising the economy. The engineering works required to make EST happen are going to be developed all over Europe. High technology jobs will be created as a result of the progress of EST.