September 30, 2011
Washington -- The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA Inc.) announced today that it has selected the University of Colorado, Boulder for the future site for the National Solar Observatory (NSO). NSO is operated by AURA under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the benefit of the astronomical community.
Dr. Dan Clemens of Boston University, chair of the AURA Board said "This was a very difficult decision for the AURA Board, one of the most difficult in AURA's history. For over 40 years, AURA has been the steward for the NSO and the chief advocate for ground-based solar astronomy. We considered all of the issues in detail, and made a decision aimed at advancing the best interests of solar
astronomy for today and for the future
NSO's mission is to advance knowledge of the Sun, both as an astronomical object and as the dominant external influence on Earth, by providing forefront observational opportunities to the research community. A major new NSO initiative is the 4-meter Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) that will begin construction in the near future.
NSO currently operates long-term observing networks at the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, and the Sacramento Peak Observatory in New Mexico. NSO plans to ramp down operations at the older telescopes, some dating to the 1950s. The changes, coupled with the development of the ATST, require that NSO consolidate its headquarters in one site.
Over the next several years, pending availability of funding from the NSF, the NSO will move from its present locations to the new Boulder headquarters. In addition, some of the staff will go to the base operations facility being developed for the ATST on Haleakala on Maui. AURA will submit a proposal to the NSF in 2014 which will include the details of its partnership with the University of Colorado and will propose the necessary funding to accomplish the move.
Dr. Stephen Keil, director of the NSO, said "This decision highlights the importance of the NSO and sets the stage for its future growth. We will strive to make this transition as smooth as possible for the employees and I know that our new host will work to create a welcoming and productive environment
Seven organizations from Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico responded to the initial request for proposals. An AURA selection team conducted a detailed review of those proposals. In early April 2011, AURA focused on two finalists, the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and the University of Colorado, Boulder.
AURA President William S. Smith Jr said, "Both finalists presented strong, highly attractive proposals that benefit the science community, the NSO, and offer a cost-effective environment for conducting NSO operations. Following detailed discussions and site visits, we decided that the University of Colorado, Boulder offered the best long-term host site for the NSO
AURA and the University of Colorado will work toward a final agreement over the next year, leading to a full proposal to the NSF in 2014. Further information is available at http://www.nso.edu/press/finaltwo.html
and the NSO website
AURA Board Resolution
William S. Smith, Jr., President
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
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