Frequently Asked Questions


Questions visitors frequently ask about Big Bear Solar Observatory.

1. Are there public tours?

We used to have public tours on Saturdays in July and August. With the installation of the NST, the observatory remains a construction site that is unsuitable for public tours. After the commissioning phase, in about two years, we will ascertain the kind of public tours that are feasible and practical.

2. What do you do at night?

The solar telescopes are specially made for observing the Sun. On rare occasions we do use them at night on stars to check alignment and tracking. The earthshine telescope does run at night, of course, and not in the daytime. The observing schedule for the earthshine telescope depends on the phase of the Moon.

3. Is it true that there are only six other solar telescopes in the world?

No. There are many other solar telescopes. A list of some of the largest ones can be found here. The new solar telescope (NST, 1.6 m clear aperture) is the largest aperture solar telescope in the world. Our GONG telescope is part of a network of six identical telescopes spaced around the Earth, but there are many other kinds of solar telescopes.

4. Who operates BBSO, and where does the money come from?

BBSO is operated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the science and engineering university of the State of New Jersey. The funding for the observatory is through grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, the Korean National Science Foundation and other government and private sources.

5. How many telescopes are there at BBSO?

We have three buildings with telescopes. The big building at the end of the causeway contains the NST, our 1.6 m solar telescope. The small dome next to it contains two telecopes on one mount, our hydrogen-alpha solar flare patrol telescope and our earthshine telescope. The rectangular building on the shoreline contains our GONG telescope.

6. What's this GONG anyway?

GONG stands for Global Oscillation Network Group. The GONG is part of the National Solar Observatory based in Tucson, Arizona. GONG operates six identical telescopes around the world to study the internal oscillations of the Sun.

7. Does the staff live at the observatory?

We do have a house for the family of one of our staff members on site, as well as a residence for our observatory director and some dormitory rooms for visiting astronomers. The rest of the observatory staff lives in the surrounding community.


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© BBSO/NJIT - Last modified: November 17, 2009.