It is my pleasure, for the second year, to be writing the introduction to the High Altitude Observatory’s (HAO) Annual Report. It has been a busy year, with many successes and accomplishments, as well as some challenges for the Observatory.
A number of our staff had notable achievements during the year. HAO scooped four of the seven UCAR awards at the annual UCAR Awards Ceremony held in December 2010: Astrid Maute was the first ever recipient of the Diversity Award for her long-time involvement and leadership role in the American Association for University Women (AAUW) and particularly for her contributions to the Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) conference; Art Richmond received the Mentoring Award for his exemplary and sustained mentoring efforts that directly enhance the professional development of numerous scientists at all stages of their careers from undergraduates to postdoctoral scientists and beyond; Phil Judge, Scott McIntosh, Steve Tomczyk, and collaborators received the Publication Award for “Alfvén waves in the solar corona,” Science, 317, 1192-1196 (2007); and Bruce Lites was only the fourth ever recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award for his leadership and continuous support of spectro-polarimetry programs at NCAR and in the solar community worldwide. Outside of UCAR, Matthias Rempel was awarded the Karen Harvey Prize by the Solar Physics Division (SPD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) for his groundbreaking work on the structure of sunspots and on flows and magnetic fields in the solar convection zone. He delivered his prize lecture at the 2011 SPD meeting in Las Cruces, NM. Also, two staff members were promoted during the year: Alan Burns to Project Scientist III and Scott Sewell to Engineer III.
HAO also honors staff members each year by awarding the John W. Firor Publication Award and the Walter O. Roberts Scientific and Technical Advancement Award. HAO’s publication award was presented to Mark Miesch and collaborators for “Structure and evolution of giant cells in global models of solar convection,” The Astrophysical Journal, 673, 557-575 (2008). Greg Card and Steve Tomczyk received the scientific and technical advancement award for the outstanding contributions made to the development and deployment of the Coronal Multi-Channel Polarimeter (CoMP) instrument. This year we instituted a new award, the HAO Director’s Award, which was presented to Joan Burkepile for her service to and engagement with the Mauna Loa Observatory (MLSO) user community.
Congratulations to all the above colleagues for these well-deserved recognitions.
In September 2010 we held a two-day retreat for all HAO staff at the Lionsgate Event Center, Lafayette, CO, to work on a new HAO Strategic Plan. The retreat was followed by a period of further discussion and iteration of the plan’s elements within the Observatory; a small group then proceeded to draft the plan. Following consultation with external stakeholders, our HAO Strategic Plan for 2011-2015 was finished just before Christmas. It is an actionable plan, in that it will direct the investment of efforts and resources in the Observatory throughout the next several years, and we will judge our progress and success against it. It is also a living plan: although it looks forward on a five-year timescale, it will be revisited and renewed halfway through that period.
In the summer of 2011 we reorganized the section structure in the Observatory, reducing the number of sections from four to three. The Atmosphere, Ionosphere & Magnetosphere (AIM) section is retained, but the previous Solar Interior & Variability section, Lower Solar Atmosphere section and Corona & Heliosphere section are replaced by two new sections: the Solar Transients and Space Weather (STSW) section and the Long-term Solar Variability (LSV) section. During the year and the subsequent reorganization, three long-serving section heads stepped down: Yuhong Fan, Bruce Lites, and Keith MacGregor. I thank all three of them for their service to HAO and leadership of their sections, as I do Mausumi Dikpati for her service as acting head of the Solar Interior and Variability section for much of the past year. Art Richmond continues as AIM section head; and Sarah Gibson and Scott McIntosh are heads of the new LSV and STSW sections, respectively.
The year saw the first science flight of the HAO FPI balloon mission HiWind (PI Qian Wu). Further, two major instrumentation projects successfully completed their preliminary design reviews during the year: these are the Visible-light Spectro-Polarimeter (ViSP) for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), and the white-light COSMO K-Coronagraph. All three represent exciting instrumentation developments for the Observatory. In particular, the K-Coronagraph, which is now being constructed and will be deployed to the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory in 2013, is the first element of the planned Coronal Solar Magnetism Observatory (COSMO). At a time of severe pressures on federal budgets, with consequent impacts on the budgets of NCAR and HAO, it is important for the future of HAO that we are nonetheless able to find internal and external resources to realize new programs and to make progress on our strategic frontier activities.
Support of the broad solar-terrestrial physics community is an essential component of HAO’s mission, and numerous activities during the year were directed to this purpose. Space permits me to mention just a few examples. There was strong HAO participation and leadership at the joint CEDAR/GEM workshop, with 16 HAO participants, nine sessions were led by HAO staff, a plenary talk was presented by Stan Solomon, and a huge contribution to the organization of the workshop was made by Barbara Emery. Similarly, 16 members of HAO participated at the SHINE workshop; four sessions were led by HAO staff, Matthias Rempel gave a plenary talk, and the workshop saw the public launch of the CoMP data. Of special note, Joan Burkepile has been appointed to the SHINE steering committee. In the area of education, Phil Judge organized the Eddy Cross-Disciplinary Symposium on Sun-Climate Research, and numerous staff were involved in the supervision of our strongest-ever cohort of six Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer students and two Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) protégés. In support of community models, Hanli Liu took over as NCAR co-chair of the Whole Earth Community Climate Model (WACCM) working group within the Community Earth System Model (CESM) project. In community leadership, several HAO staff contributed to The National Research Council’s decadal survey in heliophysics, notably Sarah Gibson as a member of the steering committee, and Mike Wiltberger as vice-chair of the Solar Wind Magnetosphere Interaction (SWMI) panel.
In closing, I should mention the NSF Science Review of HAO (the most substantial review of the Observatory in 10 years), which took place in March 2011. The review panel reported that “the Observatory has an impressive and distinguished record of scientific accomplishments and achievements as well as myriad activities to support education and public outreach”. Many of those activities are reported further in the succeeding pages of this year’s HAO Annual Report. Needless to say, these achievements would not happen without the dedicated and skilled efforts of HAO staff, and I thank them all for their dedication to the Observatory and to the community we serve.