Director's Message

Welcome! FY2019 has been a great year with many major changes in structure. To begin with, Scott McIntosh served as interim NCAR Director, and then Deputy Director of NCAR for most of the fiscal year. Scott is now in permanent position as Deputy Director of NCAR. Congratulations Scott! I was appointed to serve as Interim Director early in that process, so for FY2019 you will hear from me, Sarah Gibson (a long-time Senior Scientist in HAO), honored to be reporting as Director of the High Altitude Observatory.

Photograph of Sarah Gibson, HAO Interim Director
Sarah Gibson, HAO Interim Director

I am pleased to introduce this report highlighting some of the achievements of my HAO colleagues over the past year. HAO’s mission is to understand and quantify the impact of solar variability on Earth’s atmosphere across temporal scales. By fostering the transfer of knowledge and technology we lead, support, enhance, and extend the capabilities of the university and broader scientific communities nationally and internationally.

This year we had some outstanding examples of teamwork across HAO. A large number of staff were involved in a proposal for COSMO observatory design that substantially developed elements of science traceability, work breakdown and cost. COSMO is a unique ground-based facility designed to address current shortfalls in our capability to measure magnetic fields in the solar corona. The proposed effort progressed as far as foundation-level review, and although unsuccessful at that round of competition, has laid a crucial groundwork for moving COSMO forward. Special recognition awards were given this year to Caitlyn Erdesz, Scott Sewell, and Steve Tomczyk in gratitude for their efforts on the COSMO proposal.

Special recognition awards were also given to the team of HiWind, including Nicole Ela, Alice Lecinski, Qian Wu, and Rob Graves. This marked the second flight of HiWind, the first balloon-borne Fabry-Perot interferometer designed to measure polar cap thermospheric neutral winds during summer.

Special recognition awards also went to Amy Knack, for shepherding staff through the transition to Workday, to Giuliana de Toma, for her extraordinary support of the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, to Rebecca Centeno Elliott, for her development of concept and curriculum for last year’s spectropolarimetry summer school, and to Wendy Hawkins, for her continued excellence of our community in support of the Space Weather Summer School (SWSS.) Allen Stueben also received an award recognizing his efforts working with a diverse community in Hawaii, and bringing excitement to the next generation of engineers.

Another group recognized with an award this year were members of the Kon Tiki team including Joan Burkepile, Caitlyn Erdesz, Nicole Ela, and Scott Sewell. Kon Tiki -- now renamed “Solar Cruiser”-- is a solar-sail mission that has successfully advanced to Phase A development in NASA’s competition for technical demonstration missions. It represents an opportunity for HAO instrumentation to return to space, as does the SolarCube cubesat mission that also undertook Phase A development this year. Although SolarCube did not move forward to Phase B at this time, we intend to try again. In addition to these instrumentation proposals, both the solar and geospace sections at HAO are heavily involved in NASA mission science, with leadership roles in SMEX missions including the recently launched Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission, and the newly approved Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission, planned for launch in 2023. HAO’s progress towards space has relied on the energy and enthusiasm of the staff for creating and supporting proposals. Everyone has pitched in to help this happen, and this year special recognition was given to Amy Knack and to Caroline Haws (of MMM) for their support with proposals during heavy submission periods.

We have had multiple reclassifications of staff this year Alan Burns has moved up to Project Scientist (PS) IV, Astrid Maute to PS III, Nick Pedatella to Scientist II, Nicole Ela to Engineer II, and Caitlyn Quinn to Administrator II. In addition, Yuhong Fan is our new Solar Frontiers Section Head. Congratulations to all!

As mentioned previously, this year marked the departure of HAO director Scott McIntosh to become Deputy Director of NCAR. He will be greatly missed by staff. I am deeply grateful to all the staff for pulling together during this time of transition, and in particular for the staunch support of Joanne Graham and Stan Solomon.