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China builds sharpest eye to peer at sun
By Yu Zheng (Xinhua)
Updated: 2005-07-13 07:06

Satellite-bound high-performance computers, with a total of 50 central processing units, can transmit data at a speed of 100 mega-bytes per second from space to a ground station located in Miyun, in the northeastern suburbs of Beijing.

The SST will be used to study the solar magnetic field, fine structures of the sun surface, the energy accumulation and release of solar flares and sun-earth interaction, Jin said.

As the star nearest to the earth, the sun is the only source of light and heat for the earth. Scientists regard solar research as the key to unraveling the evolution of the solar system and even the whole cosmos.

Before building space telescopes, global astronomers gazed at the sun via earth surface-based telescopes. However, observation from the earth is affected by the atmosphere, which prevents obtained scientific data from full accuracy.

Developed countries have sent more than 130 spacecraft for solar observation, 20 out of which are still circling in space.

Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom are now jointly developing their own solar telescope, coded as SOLAR-B. With a diameter of 0.5 meters, SOLAR-B has half the capability in optical resolution than that of the China-made telescope.

William Livingston, a leading astronomer of the US National Solar Observatory, commented that the Chinese telescope is "unique" and "significant to push forward the edges of solar physical research."

Astronomers estimate the investment in the project by 2008 at one billion yuan. They say, however, it is worthy for improving technologies in remote sensing, global positioning and satellite data processing in China.

Sun Jiadong, a CAS academician who is also an academician of the International Academy of Astronautics, said, "China's first SST will lead others in the early decades of the 21st century."

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