Big Bear Solar Observatory

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The Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) is a solar observatory operated by New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) located on the north side of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of California. The telescopes and instruments at the observatory are designed and employed specifically for studying the activities and phenomena of our solar system's star, the Sun.


The Observatory

Inside the dome of the Big Bear Solar Observatory during the filming of the documentary, "BBSO Secrets of Our Star"

The observatory was built by the California Institute of Technology in 1969 under the direction of Hal (Captain Corona) Zirin. Management of the observatory was transferred to the NJIT in 1997. Funding comes from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the United States Air Force, and other agencies.

The location at Big Bear Lake is optimal due to the clarity of the sky and the presence a body of water. The lake surface is about above sea level, putting it above a significant portion of the atmosphere. The main observatory building is in the open waters of the lake, and was originally reached by boat, though a causeway was added later. The water provides a cooling effect on the atmosphere surrounding the building and eliminates ground heat radiation waves that normally would cause optical aberrations.

The 1.6 Meter New Solar Telescope

In 2007, the New Solar Telescope (NST), a 1.6 meter clear aperture open frame, off-axis Gregorian telescope was commissioned and built by DFM Engineering. The New Solar NST saw first light of the Sun at the Nasmyth focus in December 2008, and observations began in January 2009. The telescope is mounted on an equatorial mount with direct drive, which is attached to the modified existing pier. The mirror was figured from a 1.7 meter blank by the University of Arizona Mirror Lab as a proof-of-concept for the mirrors of the Giant Magellan Telescope.

High Resolution Solar Imagery

Solar granulation and mini-granulation acquired with the Big Bear Solar Observatory's New Solar Telescope on August 3, 2010

Due to the favorable location, advanced instrumentation, and the skill of the astronomers and technical teams at BBSO/NJIT, some of the highest resolution imagery of the sun ever obtained is being produced.

The NST ranks among the largest clear aperture solar telescopes in the world, and with larger aperture comes greater resolving power. It is able to resolve features on the Sun less than 50 km across. The NST project was a collaboration between BBSO/NJIT, the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (UH IfA), and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI).

BBSO Secrets of Our Star

"BBSO Secrets of Our Star" is a short documentary film produced by the AstronomyOutreach network to explain the history and current research that is conducted at BBSO, and will be used as part of BBSO/NJIT's public outreach programs. The film is in post-production (release scheduled for May 2014).

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