NSF’s flagship solar telescope, the largest in the world, to herald a new era in solar science.
New observations published on the occasion of the inauguration ceremony of the Inouye solar telescope.
On August 31, 2022, a delegation of U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) leaders, congressional dignitaries, and members of the scientific and Native Hawaiian communities gathered near the summit of Haleakalā, Maui, to commemorate the inauguration of the most powerful solar telescope in the world. . NSF’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is delivering on its promise to reveal the Sun in a way never seen before as it nears the end of the first year of its Operations Commissioning Phase (OCP).
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the images and data produced by the Inouye Solar Telescope will write the next chapters in solar physics research. This includes two stunning new images released to celebrate the events of the past week. More than 25 years ago, the NSF invested in creating a world-renowned ground-based solar observatory to answer the most pressing questions in solar physics and space weather events that impact Earth. This vision, executed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) through the NSF National Solar Observatory (NSO), was realized during the official inauguration of the Inouye Solar Telescope.
“NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope is the world’s most powerful solar telescope that will forever change the way we explore and understand our sun,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “His insights will transform the way our country and the planet predict and prepare for events such as solar storms.”
To commemorate this momentous occasion, the grand opening brought together NSF leaders, telescope staff, and members of the scientific community to recognize this historic milestone in bringing the telescope online. Representatives from the NSF, AURA, and NSO were joined by key House and Senate staff from the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, as well only by key staff on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee charged with authorizing and funding the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.
Of note, the Inouye Solar Telescope is located on land of spiritual and cultural significance to the Native Hawaiian people. Use of this meaningful site to further scientific knowledge is done with appreciation and respect. Members of the Inouye Solar Telescope Native Hawaiian Task Force have been recognized for their invaluable role in training NSF and NSO personnel on cultural issues important to them and in providing cultural input throughout the construction of the telescope. Hōkūlani Holt, director of the Ka Hikina O Ka Lā program at the University of Hawai’i Maui College, led an opening pule (prayer) in accordance with Hawaiian cultural protocol.
The Inouye Solar Telescope has embarked on a mission to advance solar science, research and education and foster relationships with local communities across Hawaiʻi. Since the start of OCP in February 2022, the Inouye Solar Telescope has collected data for more than 20 of the accepted science proposals and conducted initial coordinated solar observations with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and the NASA Solar Orbiter. ESA/NASA.
“With the world’s largest solar telescope currently in scientific operation, we are grateful to everyone who makes this remarkable facility possible,” said AURA President Matt Mountain. “In particular, we thank the people of Hawaii for the privilege of operating from this remarkable site, the National Science Foundation and the United States Congress for their continued support, and our Inouye Solar Telescope team, many of whom devoted more than a decade tirelessly to this transformational project. A new era of solar physics is beginning!
The NSF and NSO support the growth and development of Hawaii’s scientific and technical workforce through education and workforce development programs. Hawaiian and Native Hawaiian students are supported on their path to STEM careers through school and community outreach events, participation in Akamai’s workforce initiative, and the Ka Hikina O program Ka Lā funded by the NSF. The partnership with the National Park Service (Haleakalā National Park) to host Solar Week in 2022 is an example of efforts to bring solar science to the general public. Employment opportunities at the Inouye Solar Telescope aim to diversify Hawaii’s employment sector and provide STEM-based career opportunities to Hawaii’s workforce.
The inauguration puts a seal on an ambitious, decades-long project to provide the world with its preeminent solar observatory. The celebration paid tribute to the collaborative effort among the many entities and individuals required to successfully bring the telescope to operations. This marked the start of the Inouye Solar Telescope’s 50-year journey to revolutionize our understanding of the Sun, its magnetic behavior and its influence on Earth.
The United States National Science Foundation’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is operated by the National Solar Observatory (NSO). It is a federally funded research and development center focused on solar research, operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). The Inouye Solar Telescope and NSO are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under a cooperative agreement with AURA. The Inouye Solar Telescope is located on land of spiritual and cultural significance to Native Hawaiians. Use of this important site to further scientific knowledge is done with appreciation and respect.
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