High Resolution Observations and Studies of Solar Eruptions Using the 1.6-meter Telescope in Big Bear

Project: Research project

Project Details


New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) has been operating Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) for more than two decades. The observatory has remained highly productive – both in science output and in the development of state-of-the-art instrumentation. This includes more than a hundred peer-reviewed publications over the past four years, as well as operations of the Goode Solar Telescope (GST) as a community facility and upgrading GST instrumentation to meet the evolving scientific requirements of users in the U.S. and worldwide. GST is one of the highest-resolution solar telescopes in the world. Owing to the extended periods of stable excellent seeing at Big Bear Lake, GST with its high-order adaptive optics (AO), routinely collects diffraction-limited spatial resolution (~ 0".1, or 70 km on the solar surface) photometric, spectroscopic and polarimetric data, with a high cadence (< 40 s), across the spectrum from 430 nm to 8.2 μm. This award supports five years of backbone support for BBSO operations, science, and education activities. BBSO will continue operating GST as a community facility. GST data and a substantial portion of the GST observing time are open to any solar physicists in the US. GST data have been and will be used in many Ph.D. theses. BBSO will continue supporting the NSF-REU program by providing undergraduate students with hands-on experience in astronomical data analysis, high-resolution observations, and instrument development. The graduate student support will include involvement by members of underrepresented groups in astrophysics and includes two summer schools at BBSO, to train graduate students/postdocs/junior researchers on techniques in ground-based solar physics. Over 30% of the team members on the project are female researchers.GST will continue playing a crucial and irreplaceable role in high-resolution solar physics to advance our understanding of the origin of space weather and the fundamental nature of the solar atmosphere. GST is the only large-aperture solar telescope that commonly experiences excellent seeing conditions lasting many hours on a regular basis. During the upcoming maximum of Solar Cycle 25, the period covered by the award, BBSO will obtain, analyze, and interpret a wealth of high-resolution solar data. Using this resource, BBSO will develop and apply analytical tools to attack a number of critical, leading-edge problems in space weather research, with a particular focus on high-resolution observations and studies of solar eruptions, including (1) Elementary Magnetic Reconnection, (2) Flare Energetics in Lower Solar Atmosphere, (3) 3-D Magnetic Structure of Flare Productive Active Regions, (4) Data-based Modeling to Understand Flare Triggering, and (5) Small-scale Magnetic Flux Ropes and Associated Jets. Solar eruptions are the key sources of space weather, impacting the daily life of humans through effects on communication, transportation, power systems, national defense, and space travel. Moreover, BBSO will work to enhance coordination with NSF’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) in telescope operations, instrumentation development and science. GST and DKIST are complementary in instrument capabilities and discovery space. BBSO community users, who are distributed across 61 universities, observatories, and institutes in 21 countries have been granted the majority of the GST observing time (> 80%). BBSO actively supports coordinated campaign observations with NASA space, rocket and balloon missions (e.g., Parker Solar Probe), and other large ground-based facilities. BBSO now provides a permanent home to the NSF’s Synoptic Optical Long-term Investigation of the Sun (SOLIS) facility built by the National Solar Observatory.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date6/1/235/31/28


  • National Science Foundation: $4,638,788.00


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