NSO molding the future of solar physics research thanks to new NSF funding
The National Solar Observatory (NSO) has received a supplemental grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) which will be used to harness revolutionary observing capabilities and data in support of nationwide efforts in the field of solar physics.
Measuring the magnetic field of the solar corona is one of many transformative observations DKIST will bring. This composite image shows the Sun's magnetic field at its surface, and hot plasma tracing magnetic field lines in the corona.
Measuring the magnetic field of the solar corona is one of many transformative observations DKIST will bring. This composite image shows the Sun's magnetic field at its surface, and hot plasma tracing magnetic field lines in the corona. Image Credits: Miloslav Druckmuller, Shadia Habbal and Peter Aniol; National Science Foundation/AURA/NSO.
The funds, a result of strong congressional support, will greatly enhance the science produced by NSF's Daniel K. Inouye (DKI) Solar Telescope. In addition, the funds will nurture collaboration across the U.S.-based solar physics community, including international experts. NSO, as the U.S. center for ground-based solar research, will coordinate the effort, collaborating with research institutions across the U.S. and cultivating graduate students interested in pursuing solar physics research. The DKI Solar Telescope, also known as DKIST, is being built and will be operated by NSO on behalf of NSF.
"The DKI Solar Telescope will push our understanding of the Sun further than we can imagine," explains NSO Director, Dr. Valentin Pillet. "The data it will produce requires new and complex analysis techniques. We are hopeful that this new funding will allow us to engage the U.S. community and in particular, to train early career researchers to become the new leaders in this field in order to make the most of this revolutionary telescope."
The four-meter DKI Solar Telescope is currently under construction in Maui, Hawai'i. It is scheduled for first light early in 2020 releasing huge amounts of new data all freely and openly available to the science community and the public.
"Empowering the research community to fully exploit the new capabilities of DKIST is a high priority for the National Science Foundation, and this aligns closely with some of NSF's 10 Big Ideas, in particular Harnessing the Data Revolution," says Dr. David Boboltz, the NSF program officer for NSO and DKIST. "This is a prime example of how our national centers like NSO can provide the leadership necessary to focus the entire research community around this new and exciting asset".
The additional NSO funding will be used to develop the infrastructure and tools necessary to produce enhanced DKIST data products that will be made available to the entire solar research community. To accomplish this task, NSO will engage the U.S. community especially graduate students and early-career scientists. NSO plans to support graduate student residencies at NSO, and other institutes excelling in DKI Solar Telescope science, as well as funding in-house development of advanced datasets that would otherwise be unattainable by the wider solar community.
H-alpha image of a sunspot active region near limb. Image taken at the Dunn Solar Telescope using the filter developed for the Visible Broadband Imager instrument on NSF's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.
H-alpha image of a sunspot active region near limb. Image taken at the Dunn Solar Telescope using the filter developed for the Visible Broadband Imager instrument on NSF's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope. Credit: National Science Foundation/AURA/NSO.
"The driving factor behind this initiative is to provide data that enables a broad community to get to science results from DKI Solar Telescope quickly and efficiently," says Dr. Thomas Rimmele, DKIST Director. "The original funding for the DKIST only included "Level 1" data, which has instrumental artifacts removed but little else. This new funding will enable NSO and the solar community to leverage our continuously improving data analysis techniques to provide data that represents the physical parameters on the sun, such as magnetic field strength and direction. A major leap forward in this realm will be providing high-resolution magnetic field measurements in the solar corona for the very first time."
The enhanced data development program will start in Spring 2019 in preparation for DKI Solar Telescope operations currently on schedule to begin in 2020. For more information, visit http://www.nso.edu
The National Solar Observatory (NSO) is the national center for ground-based solar physics in the United States (http://www.nso.edu) and is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation Division of Astronomical Sciences. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science. NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future. Please refer to http://www.nsf.gov.