Today, the world’s largest instrument for studying
the sun and its complex magnetic field, the Advanced
Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) is one step closer
to reality, and to a location on Haleakala, Maui.
The ATST is an international project led by the U.S.
National Solar Observatory (NSO), which is operated
by the Association of Universities for Research in
Astronomy (AURA), a consortium of 36 universities.
Today, the AURA Board of Directors endorsed the
recommendation of its ATST Science Working Group to
make Haleakala the primary candidate site for the
ATST. The announcement caps a three-year effort
that began with 70 potential sites, both national
and international, being considered, and ended with
Haleakala emerging as the one that best fulfills
the ATST science requirements.

The $161 million ATST has been described as the
world’s greatest advance in ground-based solar
telescope capabilities since Galileo. ATST can also
be described as a solar “magnetometer.” Its unique
design is optimized to allow precise measurements
of solar magnetic fields, particularly under
circumstances where they have been, thus far,
invisible. This new capability should allow us to
understand and predict solar variability.

Few astrophysical research disciplines are
directly relevant to life on Earth, but understanding
and predicting the magnetic fluctuations of the sun
is one that is. This variability touches Earth in
several ways, principally through the sun’s changing
brightness, which affects the terrestrial climate
both on the very long timescales that correspond
with the rise and fall of civilizations and in
periods as short as a few years. Furthermore, much
Earth-bound technology, from electrical power
distribution to cell phone communication, is directly
affected by the intense solar magnetic storms that
scientists call flares and coronal mass ejections.
Dr. Jeff Kuhn, solar astronomer and Institute for
Astronomy associate director for Haleakala stated,
“With the ATST, we will finally have a tool that can
measure the magnetism that we believe controls solar

Dr. Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, director of the Institute
for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, expressed
his excitement about the site selection by saying,
“The ATST is an outstanding scientific project. It
will provide deep insight into the role that the sun
plays in our lives. I am extremely happy that we are
now able to attract this project to Hawaii.” He
announced that “the ATST project is moving to
undertake a joint State/Federal Environmental Impact
Statement for a site on Haleakala.” He noted that the
ATST project is identified as a potential new
facility in the University of Hawaii, Institute for
Astronomy’s Haleakala Observatory Long Range
Development Plan.

University of Hawaii President Dr. David McClain
commended the Institute for Astronomy for its successful
work and called the recommendation “a significant step
forward in the advancement of the University’s research
program. It also shows the importance of the University
for the development of technology programs with broader
educational and economic impact on all Hawaiian islands.”

Dr. Peter Englert, chancellor of the University of
Hawaii at Manoa, was extremely pleased about the site
decision. He said, “This is a beautiful example of the
growing success of UH Manoa as a research campus. We
look forward to working together with the National Solar
Observatory for the advancement of science, the
improvement of our academic program and the benefit of
the people of Hawaii.”

According to Dr. Stephen Keil, NSO director and
principal investigator for the ATST, “The ATST site
selection and the ATST design represent the work of a
large segment of the U.S. and international solar
communities. The major goals of observing and
understanding magnetic fields at their fundamental
spatial and temporal scales at all heights in the
solar atmosphere are best fulfilled on Haleakala.
At 4 meters in diameter, the ATST will be the world’s
largest and most capable solar telescope.”

When asked about the possibility of having the ATST
on Haleakala, Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. stated,
“In ancient times the Kahuna po`o (high priests) knew
the value of Haleakala as a place to view the planets
and the stars, and as a place for meditation and
receiving spiritual wisdom. Haleakala is a sacred place
and must be treated with respect. It is of utmost
importance that this project, or any project on
Haleakala, follow the Hawaiian Cultural Protocol set
forth for Kolekole Pu`u (top of Haleakala) in the IfA’s
Long Range Development Plan; the Kanaka Maoli must be
consulted in the earliest phases of any proposed project,
those who work at Kolekole must attend “Sense of Place”
training, there must be Cultural Monitoring during all
phases, before, during and after construction, and every
effort must be taken to minimize the visual impact of
anything on Haleakala. Haleakala is a place of prayer;
it is Ala hea ka la – the path to the calling the sun.”

ATST is a project of the solar physics research community,
led by the NSO, AURA (NSO’s parent organization), and
supported by the National Science Foundation.

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