High Altitude Observatory

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High Altitude Observatory
Location Hawaii

The High Altitude Observatory (HAO) conducts research and provides support and facilities for the solar-terrestrial research community in the areas of solar and heliospheric physics, and the effects of solar variability on the Earth's magnetosphere, ionosphere, and upper atmosphere.[1]

HAO is a laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and receives substantial funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).[1]

HAO's mission is to understand the behavior of the Sun and its impact on the Earth, to support, enhance, and extend the capabilities of the university community and the broader scientific community, nationally and internationally, and to foster the transfer of knowledge and technology. As articulated in its Strategic Plan for 2011-2015, HAO's vision is to: Perform world-leading science to understand fundamentally and with predictive capability the sources and nature of solar and geospace variability; Provide scientific leadership and facilities to serve the wider community in common pursuit of these science objectives, and both support and benefit from the NCAR community; Support the education and training of early-career researchers in solar-terrestrial physics and instrumentation; and Provide advocacy for solar-terrestrial physics, promoting its results, and articulating its societal importance, to the rest of NCAR, the NSF, the university community, and the public.

HAO's telescopes are located at its Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, near the summit of that volcano on the big island of Hawaii. NCAR's solar observatory shares space on the campus of NOAA's larger Mauna Loa Observatory. HAO's researchers are based at NCAR headquarters, in Boulder, Colorado.

The founding Director of the High Altitude Observatory was Walter Orr Roberts. The current Director is Michael Thompson.

A list of all HAO directors since the founding of the Observatory is given below.

HAO Director Dates in office
Walter O. Roberts 1940 - 1960
John W. Firor 1961 - 1968
Gordon A. Newkirk 1968 - 1979
Robert M. MacQueen 1980 - 1986
Peter A. Gilman 1987 - 1989
Thomas E. Holtzer 1990 - 1995
Michael T. F. Knölker 1995 - 2009
Michael J. Thompson 2010 -


  1. ^ a b The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR): Home