The Sun from Big Bear
Big Bear Solar Observatory is located high in a mountain lake in Southern California. It is one of very few solar observatories in the world capable of making high-resolution observations of the sun. The cloudless skies of the southwestern United States give the observatory more than 300 sunny days a year. The location in the lake 2-km above sea level provides a natural inversion that limits the near-ground effects of atmospheric turbulence. The prevailing westerly winds limit high altitude effects of atmospheric turbulence because the observatory is so close to the Pacific Ocean. The primary telescope has an aperture of 65-cm and is outfitted with sophisticated instruments to measure the sun’s magnetic fields and surface flows. We are presently adding a high-order adaptive optics system. The observatory also takes a leadership role in space weather studies, including monitoring and predicting solar activity and geomagnetic storms that can impact satellites, telecommunications, the power grid and passengers on polar flights.
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