NSO builds and operates solar telescopes on behalf of the National Science Foundation
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The NSO Integrated Synoptic Program (NISP) provides long-term synoptic observations of the Sun’s photosphere, chromosphere, and magnetic field. NISP operates a suite of instruments from the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) which is located at six sites around the world, resulting in 24/7 observations of the Sun. NISP also operates the Synoptic Optical Long-term Investigations of the Sun (SOLIS) program, which is located at Big Bear Observatory in California.
The National Science Foundation‘s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) which is being built and operated by NSO, will be a 4-m off-axis solar telescope with a suite of cutting-edge first light instruments. Focused on better understanding the behaviors of the solar magnetic field, from the photosphere to the corona, DKIST will revolutionize our understanding of the Sun and it’s dynamic behavior. Using a technique called spectropolarimetery, pioneered by the NSO and the world’s leading solar scientists, we will indirectly measure magnetic fields in the corona for the first time.
The Mc-Math Pierce Solar Telescope (McMP) is located at Kitt Peak, Arizona and has been under operation by NSO since 1962. It’s unique triangular shape makes it easy to spot and impressive to behold. The facility consists of three telescopes: the Main, the East Auxiliary and the West Auxiliary. Each are fed by a flat heliostat mirror mounted on the tower and all three experience image rotation at the rate of one revolution per day. The main telescope houses a series of permanent instruments, as well as space for visiting instrumentation.

As of 2017, the McMP is no longer under NSO’s remit. The future of the facility is still in question.

The Richard B. Dunn Solar Telescope (DST) is located at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico and has been in operation by NSO since 1969. Specializing in solar high resolution imaging and spectroscopy, it was used to investigate a  range of solar phenomena, often in concert with satellite observations, and to develop new technologies for the 4-meter  DKIST. The tower of the DST is a striking sight to behold. Approximately 67 meters (220 feet) of this telescope lie out of sight underground. The whole building from top to bottom is a single instrument. The telescope’s entire optical system – from the top of the Tower to the base of its underground portion, plus the 12 meter (40 foot) diameter observing room floor – is suspended from the top of the Tower by a mercury float bearing. The bearing in turn is hung on three bolts, each only 76 millimeters (3 inches) in diameter. The entire optical and mechanical structure of the telescope is longer than a football field and weighs over 250 tons.

As of 2017, the DST is no longer under NSO’s remit and is being operated by the New Mexico State University.