National Solar Observatory

The National Solar Observatory (NSO) is a United States public research institute to advance the knowledge of the physics of the Sun. NSO studies the Sun both as an astronomical object and as the dominant external influence on Earth. NSO is headquartered in Boulder and operated facilities at two locations, at Sacramento Peak near Sunspot in New Mexico, and at Kitt Peak in Arizona until the end of fiscal year 2017. The institute constructed the 4-meter Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in the Haleakala Observatory on the island of Maui.

National Solar Observatory
Established1952 (1952)
Research typebasic
Field of research
solar physics
DirectorValentin M. Pillet
Staffaround 150
Address3665 Discovery Drive, 3rd Floor, Boulder, CO, 80303, USA
LocationBoulder, Colorado, USA
40°00′42″N 105°14′44″W / 40.0117201°N 105.2454644°W / 40.0117201; -105.2454644
AffiliationsUniversity of Colorado Boulder
Operating agency

NSO provides its observations to the scientific community. It operates facilities, develops advanced instrumentation both in-house and through partnerships, conducts solar research, and carries out educational and public outreach.

Visiting the observatoriesEdit

The National Solar Observatory HQ is located on the campus of the University of Colorado, Boulder. It also has some staff on Sacramento Peak, where visitors are welcome during the daytime. The observatory lies in New Mexico at the southern end of NM Scenic Byway 6563, about 18 miles (29 km) (by car) south of Cloudcroft (on NM 82), and 40 miles (64 km) southeast (by car) from Alamogordo (on NM 70 and 54), in the village of Sunspot inside of the Lincoln National Forest. Sunspot is an unincorporated community in the Sacramento Mountains in Otero County. The nearby nighttime observatory, Apache Point Observatory, is not open to the public.

Telescopes operated by the observatoryEdit

Haleakala ObservatoryEdit

Sacramento PeakEdit

Kitt PeakEdit



The Sacramento Peak observatories were proposed by Donald Menzel of the Harvard College Observatory in 1947, when the U.S. Air Force commissioned a site survey for a suitable facility that would study the higher regions of the Earth's atmosphere. The site, near White Sands Proving Ground, was chosen in 1948. The first equipment to be operated by the Harvard Observatory was installed in 1949, a 6-inch (15 cm) prominence camera, and a flare patrol camera, installed in the Grain Bin Dome.[1]

These instruments were followed by the Evans Solar Facility, or Big Dome, which housed a 16-inch (41 cm) coronograph and spectrograph. In 1963 the Hilltop Dome was built to house additional instruments.[1]

The Sacramento Peak facilities are located in Sunspot, New Mexico. The site's name was chosen by the late James C. Sadler, (1920–2005), an internationally noted meteorologist and professor at The University of Hawaii, formerly with the United States Air Force on assignment during the early inception of the observatory.[2]

For the Solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, NSO enlisted the cooperation of various groups in the Citizen CATE (Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse) experiment to set up more than 60 identical telescopes along the eclipse path, to produce 90 continuous minutes of images, 10 seconds apart, of the Sun's inner corona. This was to provide a clearer understanding of solar plumes and other transient phenomena.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Leverington, David (2013). Encyclopedia of the History of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-521-89994-9.
  2. ^ Zirker, J. B. (1998). "The Sacramento Peak Observatory". Solar Physics. No. 182. pp. 1–19.
  3. ^ Klotz, Irene. "Citizen scientists will take to the field for U.S. eclipse". U.S. Retrieved 2018-07-06.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit