NSF’s flagship solar telescope, the world’s largest, heralds a new era of solar science.
New observations released in celebration of the Inouye Solar Telescope Opening Ceremony.
On August 31, 2022, a delegation of US 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 ways 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. Included in this are 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-leading ground-based solar observatory to address the most pressing questions in solar physics and space weather events that affect Earth. This vision, executed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) through the NSF’s National Solar Observatory (NSO), was made during the formal opening 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 nation and planet predict and prepare for events like solar storms.”
To commemorate this momentous occasion, the dedication 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 Subcommittee on Appropriations, as well as key staff from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. responsible for licensing and funding the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.
It should be noted that the Inouye Solar Telescope is located on land of spiritual and cultural importance to Native Hawaiians. The use of this significant site to promote scientific knowledge is done with appreciation and respect. Members of the Inouye Solar Telescope Native Hawaiian Working Group were recognized for their invaluable role in educating NSF and NSO staff about cultural issues of importance to them and for providing cultural input during telescope construction. 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 throughout Hawaii. Since OCP began in February 2022, the Inouye Solar Telescope has collected data for more than 20 of the accepted science proposals and made initial coordinated solar observations with NASA Parker Solar Probe Y ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter.
“With the world’s largest solar telescope now in science operations, we are grateful for everyone who makes this remarkable facility possible,” said Matt Mountain, president of AURA. “In particular, we thank the people of Hawaii for the privilege of operating from this extraordinary site, the National Science Foundation and the US Congress for their continued support, and our Inouye Solar Telescope Team, many of who have tirelessly dedicated more than a decade to this transformative project. A new era of Solar Physics begins!”
NSF and NSO support the growth and development of Hawaii’s scientific and technical workforce through educational and workforce development programs. Hawaiian students and Native Hawaiians are supported on their path to STEM careers through community and school events, participation in the Akamai Workforce Initiative, and the NSF-funded Ka Hikina O Ka Lā program. Partnering with the National Park Service (Haleakalā National Park) to host Solar Week in 2022 is one example of efforts to bring solar science to the general public. Employment opportunities at the Inouye Solar Telescope are intended to diversify Hawaii’s labor industry and provide STEM-based career opportunities for Hawaii’s workforce.
The opening puts a seal on an ambitious multi-decade project to provide the world with its pre-eminent solar observatory. The celebration honored the collaborative effort among the many entities and individuals required to successfully put the telescope into operation. It marked the beginning 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 US 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, under the direction of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). The Inouye Solar Telescope and NSO are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through a cooperative agreement with AURA. The Inouye Solar Telescope is located on land of spiritual and cultural importance to Native Hawaiians. The use of this important site to promote scientific knowledge is done with appreciation and respect.
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