Did you know that there is a solar observatory in Big Bear? Ever wondered why? Or what purpose it serves? Or what any solar observatory is for? Turns out the answers are somehow both simple and a little bit complicated.
First, some history. The observatory was built by the Californian Institute of Technology in 1969 and was transferred to the New Jersey Institute of Technology on July 1st 1997. Interestingly, during original construction, a second floor was put in that is today’s first floor. The second floor ended up being the first floor to be above max lake levels. It is located in the middle of Big Bear Lake to reduce image distortion. This usually occurs when the Sun heats the ground. The smooth flow of the wind across the lake reduces air turbulence near the observatory. Plus, there are the cloudless skies and clear air of 2000 meter elevation. These conditions make the lake a prime site for solar observations.
Purpose in Life
But why? What does a solar observatory DO? Simply put, it measures the Sun’s magnetic fields and the various phenomena that occur therein. This research reveals how magnetic storms on the Sun can affect life on earth. Solar storms can damage satellites and cause power blackouts by over-stressing the power grid. The Big Bear Solar Observatory provides daily forecasts of “space weather” and “solar warnings.” They send these forecasts to more than 300 people worldwide when they predict potentially dangerous solar storms. This helps to minimize potential disruption of everyday life.
So, there you have it! Who? The New Jersey Institute of Technology. What? An observatory housing the world’s largest aperture solar telescope. Where? Big Bear Lake. When? Since 1969. And why? To protect our precious satellites! I don’t know about you, but I like things like cellphones, GPS, and severe weather warnings.