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INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino Eclipse Expedition, 11th July 2010

INAF-OATo Eclipse Expedition, 11th July 2010

Solar physicists of the Turin Astronomical Observatory of the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) have successfully observed the total solar eclipse(Fig. 1), on July 11th, 2010, from Tatakoto, an atoll of the French Polynesia (Fig. 2). The INAF-Turin team has organized the Italian expedition that included physicists from the Val d’Aosta Observatory and the University of Florence. The expedition was part of an international program involving the University of Hawaii and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
solar corona seen in 
"green-line" instrument
 Figure 1
Solar corona as seen in the “Green Line” emission (530.3 nm)
with the liquid crystal filter of INAF-Turin (green).Hot “shrouds”
(2 million degree K) of ionized iron (Fe+13) surroundprominences as
observed in singly-ionized helium emission bythe space telescope
EIT-SOHO (orange).
 
path of the solar eclipse 2010
 Figure 2
Path of the July 11th, 2010, eclipse across the French Polynesia in the South Pacific.
 
The main experiment of the expedition was the observation of the spectrum and polarization of the coronal “Green Line”, emitted by 13-times ionized iron atoms, at the wavelength of 530.3 nm. Silvano Fineschi, expedition leader of the INAF-Turin team, together with Giuseppe Massone, Gerardo Capobianco and Carlo Benna, have developed the spectro-polarimeter based on a novel electro-optical filter with liquid crystals that was successfully tested during the eclipse (Fig. 3). Marco Romoli, Lapo Casetti (University of Florence) and Paolo Calcidese (Val d’Aosta Observatory) provided important context observations of the visible-light corona.
 
INAF-OATo base camp
Figure 3
INAF-Turin base camp in the atoll of Tatakoto.
Silvano Fineschi (seated in the foreground) controls the telescope with the liquid
crystal filter for imaging of the coronal “Green Line” (530.3 nm).
 
The “Green Line” images of the corona obtained during the eclipse will yield information on the temperature of hot (2 million degrees Kelvin) coronal iron ions and on the coronal magnetic field. The images reveal hot “shrouds” of ionized iron (Fe+13) surround prominences as observed in singly-ionized helium emission by the space telescope EIT-SOHO (Fig. 1).
Close-to-the-limb coronal observations are possible only during eclipses. At the base of the corona is where the solar wind is accelerated and the heating of the million-degree corona begins. Current ground and space-based telescopes for the observations of the corona – the coronagraphs – cannot observe that close to the limb due to the occulters used to create artificial eclipses by screening the solar disk, more than one billion times brighter that the corona.
This is dramatically shown in Fig. 4 where the images of the “Green Line” of the INAF-Turin instrument (green shades), and those in broad-band visible-light camera of the Univ. of Florence (grey shades) bridge the gap between the field-of-view of the space-based coronagraph LASCO-C2 (red shades) and the extreme-UV disk-imager EIT (orange shades) onboard of SOHO.
Figure 4 “Green Line” of the
INAF-Turin instrument (green shades), and those in broad-band 
visible-light camera of the Univ. of Florence (grey shades) bridge the 
gap between the field-of-view of the space-based coronagraph LASCO-C2 
(red shades) and the extreme-UV disk-imager EIT (orange shades) onboard 
of SOHO.
  Figure 4
“Green Line” of the INAF-Turin instrument (green shades), and those
in broad-band visible-light camera of the Univ. of Florence (grey shades)
bridge the gap between the field-of-view of the space-based coronagraph
LASCO-C2 (red shades) and the extreme-UV disk-imager EIT
(orange shades) onboard of SOHO.
 
The INAF-Turin, liquid-crystal filter tested in this eclipse is a prototype of the instrument for the coronagraph ASPIICS selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the Proba-3 formation-flying mission, scheduled for launch in 2014 (http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Proba/SEMJQC0OWUF_0.html ).
The 150-m separation of the two Proba-3 spacecrafts will create an artificial eclipse when the occulter on one of the spacecrafts will cast its shadow on the other spacecraft with the ASPIICS coronagraph onboard, allowing in this way eclipse-like observations of the corona (http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Proba/SEMTA27JT2G_0.html ). 
The July 11th eclipse provided the INAF-Turin team with the opportunity of testing also a liquid-crystal, broad-band polarimeter that is part of an ESA program for space-validation of liquid-crystal electro-optics.
The liquid-crystal polarimeter is part of METIS, the Italian coronagraph selected by ESA for Solar Orbiter mission, scheduled for launch in 2017 (http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=40396). Ester Antonucci of INAF-Turin is the METIS Principal Investigator. 
 
 
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