Solar problem

Russian holding Shvabe modernizes astrophysics.

According to the materials of the business weekly "Kompaniya" , 27.10. 2013

The Sun has always been and remains the main source of light and warmth for humans, animals and plants. Being dependent from the heavenly body, people have constantly visually observed movements of the Sun, idolized and worshiped it.

Since ancient times people have tried to learn more about the Sun, to understand its nature, to unravel its secrets.

Visual and optical methods for studying the world around arisen on the basis of observation of constant bright light sources - heavenly bodies, especially the Sun. Through its cyclic changes our heavenly body has global impact on various aspects of human life, social environment, biosphere, and wildlife.

Optics and optical methods play a special role in the observation and examination of the Sun.

The studies of optical properties and phenomena, such as the speed of light, luminescence, spectroscopy, discreteness of light emission and propagation, etc. have resulted in the creation of fundamental principles of modern physics - the theory of relativity, the theory of the structure of atoms and molecules, quantum mechanics.

Solar energy transfers to the Earth in a number of ways. The main component of solar impact is electromagnetic wave or a stream of photons, light quanta. The temperature of the surface of the Sun is about 6,000 degrees, and in the center of the Sun it reaches several million degrees. Every second, the Sun emits energy equal to the conversion of 600 mln tons of hydrogen into helium. In about 5 billion years of existence, it has lost through radiation only a fraction of a percent of its mass. About 10% of the solar energy reach the Earth's surface in the form of ultraviolet radiation, more than 50% accounts for the visible range and less than 40% - for infrared radiation. Current Earth's atmosphere acts as a filter for space radiation. It is transparent for visible, ultraviolet and infrared radiation and radio waves of a relatively narrow range. Other types of radiation are reflected or absorbed by the atmosphere, causing heating and ionization of its upper layers. Part of the radiation returns into interplanetary space. Solar radiation in the visible range is poorly absorbed by the atmosphere but is strongly dissipated even in the absence of fog or clouds. About half of the light that falls on the upper boundary of the atmosphere reaches the surface of the planet.

Explosions on the Sun result in the appearance of spots on its surface that are an additional source of energy transported to the Earth with the streams of charged particles. Approaching the Earth, they are trapped by the magnetic field and "sorted" according to their charge and mass, forming an electrical circuit with a radius of up to 25,000 km. The magnetic field of the circuit ionizes the atmosphere, its conductivity increases dramatically, there are strong currents detected in the form of magnetic disturbances (storms). The number of strong magnetic storms during the year is small: there is a few of them during the years of "quiet" sun and dozens during the years of "active" sun. Moderate magnetic storms occur frequently and cover the globe usually during vernal and autumnal equinoxes.

The Earth is constantly bombarded by streams of particles, called the solar wind. Clashes of solar wind with the Earth's magnetic field arouse electric fields and currents. The tail of the Earth’s magnetosphere stretches into interplanetary space and has a length of a thousand of Earth radii. It embraces enormous energy, part of which accounts for the region near the Earth. It is connected with the formation of aurora borealis.

We know that large solar flares give rise to streams of high-energy particles that are hazardous to astronauts and spacecrafts. Coronal mass ejections cause shock waves, which also contribute to the acceleration of energetic particles. Moreover, they transfer the plasma and the magnetic field, which interacts with the Earth. Magnetic fluctuations on the Earth emerging in this circumstances may cause malfunction of power lines on the Earth, impact the operation of spacecrafts, pose a risk to the health of astronauts and passenger of airliners crossing the polar regions of the Earth.

Establishment of National heliogeophysical complex will facilitate the implementation of a landmark contribution to the understanding of the origin of solar activity, which controls space weather phenomena.

Instrument upgrading

For a long time Russian Academy of Sciences has not carried out large-scale investment projects. However, in this case, the state is ready to spend billions for the sake of upgrading the material base. As the result, it will be created a radically new system, unprecedented in terms of its opportunities, aimed to observe the Sun and everything that happens between the Earth and the day-star. Its creation will be implemented by a flagship of Russian optoelectronic industry - Shvabe Holding, which is a part of the Rostec State Technical Corporation.

"Kompaniya" has already told its readers about Shvabe (see "Kompaniya", 26.11.2012). We reported that the name of the Holding comes from the surname of the pioneer of Russian optical industry Fyodor Borisovich Shvabe. Optical holding will participate in a new project aimed at the development of domestic fundamental science. Speaking simply, Shvabe workshops will produce new telescopes, with the help of which Russian scientists will observe the Sun.

Rostec will take part in the realization of one of the most large-scale projects of the RAS in modern Russian history," says CEO of Rostec Sergey Chemezov. "Establishment of the National heliogeophysical complex will contribute to the development of a number of areas of fundamental science. Corporation enterprises have all the necessary competencies and modern production base to solve this problem. It is highly symbolic that in the determination of main organization for the implementation of this major project the choice was made in favor of one of the leading holding companies of the Group Rostekhnologii - JSC Shvabe, which in 2012 presented its brand in Moscow Planetarium."

Solar telescope-coronagraph with a mirror with a diameter of three meters will appear in the Sayan Solar Observatory, which is located in Mondy. The telescope has no analogues in the world. Now in the Sayan region there is an operating automated solar telescope, which is constantly being upgraded - now it can receive waves simultaneously in the infrared and visible ranges. This is a world-class instrument but to solve modern problems of solar physics we need a device with a mirror diameter of not less than three meters. The closest analog is the advanced solar telescope located in the USA, which has a mirror with a diameter of four meters.

Large solar telescope will allow to obtain accurate knowledge about the microstructure of the deepest layers of the atmosphere, to look into the subphotospheric layers and to develop models of the evolution of active regions. Eventually we will arrive at physically reasonable models of solar-terrestrial interactions, which will be based on the conclusive solar data instead of crude data that are used today.

The largest solar telescope should yield important results for solar physics. Solar physics occupies a central place in the atmosphere, since the Sun provides a unique "laboratory" for the study of fundamental physical processes in astrophysical objects of the universe that cannot be directly observed. The sun represents the best opportunity for observation of magnetohydrodynamic and plasma processes in astrophysical conditions. The study of plasma processes in the magnetic field at the Sun with the help of a large telescope can lead to fundamental changes in our understanding of solar and stellar atmospheres, stellar activity and effects of solar variability on the Earth.

Coronagraph will be built by 2020.

By 2020, a number of other optical instruments will be installed at the premises of Geophysical Observatory of the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics of the Siberian branch of the RAS in the village of Tory, Tunkinsky region, the Republic of Buryatia.

Multi-wave radiograph, which should be the result of collaboration between scientists and Shvabe, will replace the existing at the moment Siberian Solar Radio Telescope located in Badary district, Tunkinsky region, the Republic of Buryatia. This Radio Telescope is now observing the corona at a frequency of 5.7 GHz, which nowadays appears to be insufficient. Multi-wave radio heliograph, which is going to replace it, is able to "see" the three-dimensional structure of fields and carry out measurements at different wavelengths.

"The closest analogue is FASR radioheliograph project (the USA), which presupposes the creation of a multi-wave interferometer with a range of received frequencies from 50 MHz to 20 GHz," notes the cost sheet of design documentation for the National heliogeophysical complex. "Solar Cross" with array-type antenna composed of three separate subarrays will consist of 528 antennas.

The instrument is projected to be put into operation by 2019.

Another project - installation of radar system in Listvyanka at the premises of the Baikal Geophysical Observatory of the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics of the Siberian branch of the RAS. A combined incoherent scattering radar HP-MCT (in the world there are ten radars of this type, each has a unique design, the closest analogue - AMISR (Advanced Modular Incoherent Scatter Radar) produced by Stanford Research Institute) will appear in the area of Baikal settlement. Roughly speaking, construction works will commence in 2015 and complete in 2020.

Within the project of the National heliogeophysical complex Russia will get its own segment of the international superDARN network (network of coherent decameter range radars). Their work is aimed at studying the effects of solar wind on the Earth's magnetosphere and ionosphere. Russian segment will focus on the state of the ionosphere in the Asian part of the country (from Kamchatka to the Urals).

This is not a complete list of the components of the future complex, which will be implemented in the Irkutsk, Sverdlovsk region, Yakutia, Magadan and other territorial entities of the Russian Federation by 2020.

The new complex will allow to monitor the processes occurring in near space and near-Earth space, to study the impact of the solar wind on the magnetosphere and ionosphere, to observe variations in the parameters of the mesosphere and the thermosphere, to investigate the structure and physics of the upper atmosphere of the Earth and to approach the solution of fundamental problems of physics - the explanation of the heating of the solar corona.

The total cost of the complex is quite possible to be compared with the amount of investment in any major industrial project: in order to create a system of Sun observations the budget will allocate 17 billion rubles. The Chairman of the Presidium of the Irkutsk Research Centre of the SB RAS Igor Bychkov mentioned: "the RAS has not seen such a breakthrough for a long time. It is impossible to overestimate what happened."

Call the expert

It stands to reason that the multi-billion project was not developed immediately. Since 2007 Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences fought for the renovation of the national space instrument base, which, in particular, involves the production and installation of multi-wave radiograph, a unique instrument of the new generation, which allows to observe the solar corona. All these years Gelij Zherebtsov, a member of the Academy of Sciences, has been spending a significant part of his time in the offices of the government trying to prove the need to update national instrument base.

The Chairman of the Presidium of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Aseev informed that in April an application was sent to the Ministry of Economic Development. From June 24 of this year, the member of the Academy of Sciences Gelij Zherebtsov is appointed part-time as an acting Deputy Chairman of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is responsible for the supervision of the project of the National heliogeophysical complex. In June, the Ministry of Economic Development amended the federal targeted investment program for 2013 and the 2014-2015 planning period.

However, to start funding was not enough. It was necessary to find a contractor who would be able to implement such an ambitious megaproject at an international level. It goes without saying that no company can cope with such scope of work alone. Only a holding that combines research and production associations, design offices and state optical institutes can manage this task.

The ambitious research project needed a flagship of instrument engineering. And there is nothing surprising that in this case Shvabe Holding competence has been in demand, since the Holding is a leading national developer and manufacturer of optoelectronics. Shvabe is experienced in manufacturing products of military and civil purpose. The portfolio of the Holding includes production of optoelectronic systems and complexes, medical equipment, including Russia's only production of equipment for Developmental care, developments in the field of energy-saving lighting equipment, a gold medal for project "Naval laser" that can cut the ice cover with the thickness of 1-2 m. The Holding is also involved in the creation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

This is not a complete list of Shvabe’s achievements but as it was noted by CEO Sergey Maksin, "the Holding is not going to rest on laurels and toy with the idea of its previous merits. We are focused only on the development!"

Watch the Sun - understand the Earth

In early October, Shvabe Holding won the tender for the implementation of the megaproject "National heliogeophysical complex of the Russian Academy of Sciences". There is no doubt that the existing Rostec and Shvabe Holding capacity in collaboration with the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences will allow to cope with the task in a given time.

Project work will be carried out in three stages during 2013-2015. "During the project realization Shvabe Holding will not only develop and produce advanced optical and radio telescopes, radiolocators and other unique astronomical instruments, but is also going to build all the necessary infrastructure," noticed Sergey Maksin.

All this will definitely give an impetus to the creation of a large number of workplaces in Asian regions of the country that are strategically important from a social point of view.

According to the Ministry of Economic Development, design documentation for radioheliograph will be ready by 2016, for optical instruments in the village of Tory - by 2014, for the remaining subprojects - by 2017.

"The project is unique not only for the Irkutsk Research Center, but also for the country as a whole,” said Igor Bychkov. “Instruments to be built are comparable with the best international models in terms of the quality of future instruments and their outreach - the project will be implemented in the Irkutsk and Sverdlovsk region, Yakutia, Magadan and many other territorial entities."

For the implementation of the project on the basis of Lytkarino Optical Glass Factory, which is a part of Shvabe Holding, coordination centre will be created. The issues of cooperation between Russian and foreign companies on the optical part of the project and radio astronomy will be worked out together with the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Confidence expressed by Shvabe and Sergey Maksin in the success of the mega-project can be understood: it is quite grounded. Behind their back there are 663 Rostec enterprises, highly proficient top management of the state corporation headed by Sergey Chemezov, who is well known in business and political circles not only in Russia but also far beyond its borders.

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