A new European telescope will be able to investigate the Sun in "unprecedented" detail, a lead researcher said.

It will be based in the Canary Islands and will be able to identify structures so small it is comparable to finding a pound coin from a distance of 100 kilometres.

The first observations are planned for 2027 and Queen's University Belfast is one of the main organisations behind the project in the UK.

Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis, from the university, said: "Currently we know very little about the Sun. It gives us light and energy which are indispensable for life on Earth.

"It is a very dynamic and active system with changes that could potentially have dramatic consequences for our civilisation.

"However, we don't know the processes that operate in the Sun's atmosphere.

"We are unable to predict them and therefore we are unable to forecast the impact that they will have on Earth."

He said the European Solar Telescope (EST) could be the answer to solving many of these mysteries.

"It will be the largest European telescope that will be able to study the Sun at unprecedented levels of detail.

"It will help scientists to understand the magnetic coupling of the solar atmosphere and allow us to observe the Sun at a very high resolution and identify structures as small as 30km, which is the equivalent to finding a pound coin from a distance of 100km."

The project involves 17 European countries, with Queen's one of the lead organisations within the UK.

During a series of meetings at Queen's, 25 leading researchers discussed the final design and construction of the telescope.