Scientists at HAO and NSO, like their counterparts at many FFRDCs, have the dual responsibility to provide scientific leadership and support to the university and scientific community. Community support is provided in a variety of ways; through scientific collaboration, facility operation, instrument development, numerical model development, data analysis tool development, undergraduate and graduate student mentoring, and scientific visitor programs, to name a few. Scientific leadership in the form of cutting edge research and instrument development has been demonstrated by the staff of these organizations throughout their histories. This record of achievement is extensively documented in scientific publications and recognized through invited presentations in national and international venues as well as awards for distinguished scientific achievement.

NSO and HAO intend to sponsor a community-based workshop on their multidisciplinary activities in the post-construction ATST era. The agenda will begin with over-arching science questions, followed by a discussion of how NSO and HAO support, and can further contribute to, the community in making progress toward answering these questions. We expect that the workshop discussion will naturally include the role of the NSF in supporting community-based solar research.

Goals of this workshop include providing input for a possible future solar science initiative within the NSF that would benefit NSO, HAO, and the research community. The workshop would involve community members from a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders in ground based solar research. The aim of the workshop is to include representation from all university departments having a significant program of solar research. The product of the workshop would be a report provided to the NSF for planning purposes and to the Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics.

Project Report

Community Workshop on Ground-Based Solar Physics Boulder, Colorado May 13-14, 2011 1. Introduction Of the billions of stars in our Galaxy, the Sun is arguably the most important star to humanity. The Sun provides Earth with the energy that drives the climate system and sustains the biosphere. The Sun is the dominant object (by mass) in the solar system. Its proximity enables us to study astrophysical processes with accuracies that are not possible to achieve through observations of any other object in the universe. In view of its singular importance the Sun merits dedicated scientific investigation with the most advanced technologies utilized by the most talented scientific minds that have been trained by the educational systems in the United States and abroad. A key question in the field of solar physics is the origin of the variability of the Sun. From flares to sunspots, the Sun’s variability is intimately related to magnetic fields in all its myriad forms. A significant fraction of the total magnetic flux in the Sun, however, is beyond the resolution limits of current solar telescopes. The Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) with a mirror diameter of 4-meters (157 inches) will be the largest telescope ever built for observing the Sun. The ATST will be able to detect much of the solar magnetic field that has been hidden from our view. The ATST, which is scheduled to begin operations in 2019 following its construction, represents a national investment of $298M. In order to plan for the most effective use of this revolutionary new facility, and therefore realize the maximum scientific return on the nation’s investment, 67 members of the international scientific community gathered in Boulder, Colorado, during May 13-14, 2011, to discuss the future of ground-based solar physics. The principal goals of this workshop included providing input for a possible future solar science initiative within the National Science Foundation (NSF) that would benefit the national centers in solar physics and the research community. Over the course of two days, 23 invited speakers presented their thoughts on topics ranging from the origins of solar magnetic activity to the future of ground-based solar physics and the role of the national centers. The workshop attendees identified the key science questions, the opportunities and needs for addressing these issues, the synergistic interaction with other closely related disciplines, and the challenges posed by the federal budget outlook. Finally, the workshop considered the organization of solar physics as a discipline within the NSF. 2. NSF Merit Review Criteria Intellectual Merit: The purpose and timeliness of the workshop was to provide community-based input to the Solar and Heliospheric Physics Decadal Survey by framing a unified NSF solar research initiative. It would identify key science themes for the future, define how solar research relates to national needs, and examine the unique role played by the NSF. Broader Impacts of the Proposed Activity: The intent of this activity was to engage the broadest spectrum of stakeholders in solar research. In particular, attention was paid to inviting young scientists, including women and under-represented minorities, who will use the future facilities. 3. Outcomes of the Community Workshop on Ground-Based Solar Research The results of the workshop are encapsulated in a list of specific recommendations to the NSF that included in part: The NSF must act to ensure that adequate funding is available for operations and maintenance of the ATST; Ensure progress toward the construction of proposed new facilities, i.e., the Frequency Agile Solar Radio telescope (FASR) and the Coronal Solar Magnetism Observatory (COSMO) on time-scales that enable joint operations between these facilities, ATST, and solar space missions; Support continuity of synoptic facilities in recognition of their role in providing fundamental solar data that support a broad range of research and operational goals; Support the Virtual Solar Observatory (VSO) as the key interface between researcher and data from an array of facilities; Support the conceptual design studies for a diffraction-limited, full-disk synoptic instrument for comprehensive investigations of solar magnetic field emergence; Maintain continuity in research capability in the phasing out of older facilities with the commissioning of new telescopes so that the pipeline in research and workforce development is not broken; and Encourage interaction between the professional and amateur solar observing communities. The workshop concluded with its top-level recommendation that a blue-ribbon panel be established to make recommendations that will Examine the future organization and funding of ground-based solar physics in the US; Develop a plan for the implementation of the recommendations for ground-based solar physics. Each of these top-level priorities will be informed by the recommendations of the Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey and the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, respectively. The specific recommendations given above also would be submitted for the thoughtful consideration of the blue-ribbon panel.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST)
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
Program Officer
Craig B. Foltz
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc.
United States
Zip Code