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Haleakala Finalist for World's Largest Solar Telescope

Haleakala has been chosen by the National Solar Observatory and its partners as one of three candidate sites for the 4-meter Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST). ATST will be the world's largest ground-based solar optical observatory.

"The ATST Science Working Group recommended these three based on survey data at each of six sites that we studied for more than a year," said Dr. Stephen Keil, director of the National Solar Observatory. "Each has a unique combination of atmospheric conditions and other factors that make it an outstanding location for the ATST. The continued survey will let us determine which one has the best observing conditions." The other sites are California's Big Bear Lake and La Palma in the Canary Islands.

Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, said, "I am confident that further study will show that Haleakala is the best site." The IfA is one of the 22 collaborating institutions, and IfA Associate Director Jeffrey Kuhn, is one of the four co-principal investigators. Final selection is anticipated in late 2004.

The ATST will be a 4-meter, open-aperture telescope employing adaptive optics and other technologies to study the fine details of solar activity, including sunspots and flares. (For more information, see Na Kilo Hoku no. 8.)

The continued ATST site survey will determine which site will maximize the scientific productivity of the telescope. The desired daytime atmospheric characteristics of such a site are frequently clear skies, excellent seeing, low humidity, few aircraft contrails, and low dust levels. The site survey was the first time that several sites for an observatory were simultaneously evaluated with identical instrumentation, some of which was designed by IfA astronomer Haosheng Lin.

More information about the ATST can be found at http://atst.nso.edu/