NSF’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) is currently nearing the end of construction on the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakalā, Maui, HI. When completed in 2021, DKIST will be the world’s largest, most powerful solar telescope. It will observe our Sun from the photosphere (its surface), to the chromosphere, to the outermost corona. It will be the first telescope to make detailed measurements of the magnetic fields of solar the corona. NSF’s DKIST has four cutting-edge instruments to image the Sun and to measure solar magnetism, the driving force behind the Sun's dynamic activity. Critical technologies that enable these detailed solar observations include: a 4-m primary mirror placed in an off-axis configuration to reduce scattered sunlight; active cooling of surfaces from the telescope optics to the outer skin of the enclosure (dome) requiring over seven miles of coolant piping; and a state-of-the-art adaptive optics system to eliminate the distortions created by Earth’s atmosphere.
Life on Earth is critically dependent upon the Sun. Solar phenomena such as space weather (e.g. geomagnetic storms) can significantly impact our increasingly technological society. NSF’s DKIST will enable the study of these phenomena at unprecedented spatial, temporal, and spectral scales to gain information on the creation, interaction, and ultimate annihilation of solar magnetic fields. Determining the role of magnetic fields in the outer regions of the Sun is crucial to understanding the solar dynamo, solar variability, and solar activity, including flares and coronal mass ejections. NSF’s DKIST will provide new insights into these drivers of space weather, benefitting the solar scientific community, federal agencies that predict space weather, and society in general. NSF’s DKIST will also shed new light on the energetic processes that heat the solar corona to more than a million degrees (i.e. the solar “Dark Energy” problem).
As one of NSF’s national facilities, DKIST will be open to all solar scientists regardless of institutional or national affiliation. Observing time will be available on a competitive basis to qualified scientists after evaluation of research proposals on the basis of scientific merit, instrument capability, and the availability of the telescope and instrumentation during the requested time.
Construction of NSF’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is managed through a partnership between NSF’s National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA). DKIST will be operated by NSO supported under a cooperative agreement between NSF and AURA.