National Solar Observatory Celebrates Relocation To Boulder, Colorado

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

May 24, 2016 – The National Solar Observatory (NSO) is launching its new headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, by hosting a national conference on cutting-edge solar astronomy. The institution is celebrating its relocation from Tucson, Arizona, by hosting the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division annual meeting.

The Solar Physics Division meeting will run from Tuesday, May 31st, to Friday, June 3rd, at the University of Colorado Memorial Center. This event will bring together hundreds of solar scientists from around the world.

NSO has been at the forefront of ground-based solar astronomy for more than 60 years. The move is motivated by NSO’s latest undertaking, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), which will be the largest, highest-resolution solar telescope in the world. Named in memory of the Hawaiian senator in honor of his commitment to scientific education and research, the telescope will be located on the Hawaiian island of Maui, on the mountain of Haleakala.

DKIST will revolutionize the future of solar-physics data and in order to engage and educate future generations of solar physicists, NSO has moved its headquarters to a thriving university campus at the University of Colorado Boulder. The centralized location of Boulder will make the distribution of data across the US as seamless as possible. The data center and the majority of data processing will happen on-site at NSO headquarters.

“We are fortunate to be located in such a hub of solar-physics activity,” said NSO Director Dr. Valentín Martinez-Pillet. “This will enable NSO to educate future generations of ground-based solar scientists from across the country.”

DKIST will be the focus of a dedicated session at the Solar Physics Division meeting on June 1st in the Miller ballroom.

Throughout the meeting, there will be a series of news briefings highlighting the most up-to-date progress in solar research.

The National Solar Observatory, or NSO, provides scientists access to the world’s largest collection of optical and infrared solar telescopes and auxiliary instruments to observe the sun in detail. NSO scientists conduct theoretical and observational research focused on understanding the underlying causes of solar variability and its impact on the Earth and the Earth’s space environment. NSO is operated under the auspices of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, or AURA, on behalf of the National Science Foundation.

In April 2011, CU-Boulder was selected as one of two finalists along with the University of Alabama in Huntsville. CU-Boulder partnered with the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the University of Hawaii on the winning bid and will implement a collaborative graduate education program that will enhance the role of NSO in research and education on a national level.

Several CU-Boulder departments were involved in the NSO headquarters bid: the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, the Department of Physics and the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences. The quality of students in these departments was likely a significant consideration in the decision to bring the NSO headquarters to Boulder, and major research opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students will accompany the NSO move, particularly once DKIST is completed.

In addition to the university, Colorado and Boulder offer a host of national laboratories as potential collaborators with the NSO. Other laboratories and centers in Colorado expected to participate and benefit include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Boulder has a long history of solar observation that dates back to the 1940’s.

The consolidation of NSO into a single site located on CU-Boulder’s East Campus is expected to result in jobs for up to 70 scientists, engineers and staff with an annual payroll of roughly $20 million. The new facility will bolster an already formidable high-tech and aerospace industry in the state.

To learn more about the SPD meeting, visit: