Big Bear Solar Observatory’s 40th Year Is Highlighted by Installation of World’s Largest Solar Telescope

Last September, the Big Bear Solar Observatory became home to the largest solar telescope in the world just in time for this, the observatory’s 40th year, since being established by CalTech in 1969. Though the solar aperture telescope (with a 63 inch, or 1.6 meter, mirror), housed in the big white dome on Big Bear Lake’s North Shore was delivered nearly 11 months ago, the observatory’s Erika Norro explains, “We’re still doing tests on the telescope and getting the alignment right. It started arriving last September and it takes awhile; installation does not just happen in one day as we had to crane everything into the dome, and then assemble it like an erector set. We’re still classified as ‘under construction’ so we’re not doing any tours this summer.” Still, the observatory now operated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology is operational and, staffers tell KBHR, vigorous testing and analysis is taking place. According to Engineer Aaron Coulter, “The scientists are doing observing now with the new, larger telescope and, at the same time, we are doing all the engineering work to fine-tune the alignment. It can happen off the same images that the scientists are taking, so we’re working in concert with them.” Scientist John Varsik (one of 17 NJIT employees, including two visiting professors) tells KBHR that they observe the sun, primarily sunspots and solar magnetic fields. These findings, from here in Big Bear, are used by NJIT and are published in scientific journals. Adds Varsik, “Big Bear is special because we can put the telescope out on the lake, and the lake makes solar images steadier. That’s why they chose Big Bear back in the ’60s.” Though the Big Bear Solar Observatory has not yet re-opened to the public, to allow for the meticulous installation of the world’s largest telescope, the New Jersey Institute of Technology does plan for an in-house dedication ceremony and alumni event in October—in the meantime, our community can still claim the largest telescope ever and, says Norro, “We probably will be the biggest for at least a few more years.”
(For those interested in learning more about the work of the NJIT staff at the Big Bear Solar Observatory, John Varsik will be the guest speaker at the August 22 meeting of the Sugarloaf Property Owners Association; meeting will be held at 10am Saturday at the Sugarloaf Fire Station, located on the corner of Baldwin and Maple Lanes.)

The Big Bear Solar Observatory, now owned by NJIT, was first established by CalTech in 1969.

The Big Bear Solar Observatory, now owned by NJIT, was first established by CalTech in 1969.

Last September, the Big Bear Solar Observatory became home to the largest solar telescope in the world just in time for this, the observatory’s 40th year, since being established by CalTech in 1969. Though the solar aperture telescope (with a 63 inch, or 1.6 meter, mirror), housed in the big white dome on Big Bear Lake’s North Shore was delivered nearly 11 months ago, the observatory’s Erika Norro explains, “We’re still doing tests on the telescope and getting the alignment right. It started arriving last September and it takes awhile; installation does not just happen in one day as we had to crane everything into the dome, and then assemble it like an erector set. We’re still classified as ‘under construction’ so we’re not doing any tours this summer.” Still, the observatory now operated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology is operational and, staffers tell KBHR, vigorous testing and analysis is taking place. According to Engineer Aaron Coulter, “The scientists are doing observing now with the new, larger telescope and, at the same time, we are doing all the engineering work to fine-tune the alignment. It can happen off the same images that the scientists are taking, so we’re working in concert with them.” Scientist John Varsik (one of 17 NJIT employees, including two visiting professors) tells KBHR that they observe the sun, primarily sunspots and solar magnetic fields. These findings, from here in Big Bear, are used by NJIT and are published in scientific journals. Adds Varsik, “Big Bear is special because we can put the telescope out on the lake, and the lake makes solar images steadier. That’s why they chose Big Bear back in the ’60s.” Though the Big Bear Solar Observatory has not yet re-opened to the public, to allow for the meticulous installation of the world’s largest telescope, the New Jersey Institute of Technology does plan for an in-house dedication ceremony and alumni event in October—in the meantime, our community can still claim the largest telescope ever and, says Norro, “We probably will be the biggest for at least a few more years.”
(For those interested in learning more about the work of the NJIT staff at the Big Bear Solar Observatory, John Varsik will be the guest speaker at the August 22 meeting of the Sugarloaf Property Owners Association; meeting will be held at 10am Saturday at the Sugarloaf Fire Station, located on the corner of Baldwin and Maple Lanes.)

[caption id="attachment_7804" align="alignleft" width="575" caption="The Big Bear Solar Observatory, now owned by NJIT, was first established by CalTech in 1969."]The Big Bear Solar Observatory, now owned by NJIT, was first established by CalTech in 1969.[/caption]

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