World’s largest solar telescope is now online

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Saturday, October 10, 2009

BBSO H-alpha view of Sun's diskOn October 3, the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) dedicated the world’s largest solar telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) in California. BBSO, located on the north shore of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California, is one of the world’s leading solar observatories. It sits at an altitude of 6,780 feet (2,067 meters).

The telescope, which has an aperture of 63 inches (1.6 meters), took 5 years to construct. It collects light by means of an aspheric primary mirror. Such a mirror has a complex curve ground into it to eliminate optical aberrations found in other telescopes.

The new instrument offers three times the resolution of the telescope it replaced. With it, scientists will undertake joint observation campaigns with NASA satellites to optimize the scientific output of solar studies. One such area of research will probe the fundamental scale of the Sun’s dynamic magnetic fields. These fields are of great interest to solar physicists because they can cause magnetic storms that disrupt the power grid and communications.

BBSO contrast enhanced full disk H-alpha image: The image was recorded with a 12-bit, 2048 x 2048 pixel Pulnix CCD camera. This image has been corrected by dark and flat field images, and a limb darkening estimate has been subtracted to enhance the contrast. The image was recorded at 16:07:26 (UT) on October 09, 2009.

Image and credit info: Courtesy NJIT/BBSO

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