Philip R. Goode (64), PhD, is distinguished professor of physics at New Jersey Institute of Tech- nology, Director of the Center for Solar Terrestrial Research and since 1997 Director of bbso. He was named a Fellow of American Physical Society for his earthshine research, studies of solar structure and his critical research leadership. He received his BA from University of California at Berkeley, and PhD from Rutgers University, New Jersey.
(Photo: SCHOTT/J. Nourok)
Dr. Philip R. Goode, Director of the Big Bear Solar Observatory, on the importance of observing the sun.
solutions: People have been following the path of the sun for thousands of years. Is there anything more to be discovered?
Goode: Yes! For example, we still don’t completely understand the complex processes that lead to solar magnetic storms and all of their consequences. Studying the sun helps us to come up with some type of ”forecast” on bad weather in outer space. Furthermore, we do not yet understand how long-term trends in solar activity effects terrestrial climate changes here on earth.
solutions: How does the new telescope help you in this respect?
Goode: Our instrument will enable us to resolve the fundamental questions on solar magnetic fields and their dynamics. It is the first device with sufficient aperture to resolve the fundamental structures of solar magnetic fields on such a fine scale.
solutions: What is so special about it from a technological standpoint?
Goode: Its secondary mirror does not lie in the path of incoming light, which means it does not cast a shadow on the primary mirror. This means we can observe the sun without obstruction. Besides, the primary mirror can be bent to eliminate distortions caused by the solar heating. We also have adaptive optics operating downstream, which corrects distortions in the sunlight arising from our earth’s turbulent atmosphere.
(Photo: SCHOTT/J. Nourok)
Goode: Most of the heat is rejected at the prime focus. Still, we have taken great care to build in several layers of fail-safe measures in case the beam wanders for any reason. At prime focus, we still have 2,000 watts of power focused down on a surface about the size of a coin !
solutions: What implications did this have on selecting the materials used in building the telescope ?
Goode: We decided to have both the primary mirror and the secondary mirror made from Zerodur® glass ceramic from SCHOTT, because of its temperature stability and how well it resists the significant forces that are exerted. It resists heat extremely well. Whereas other materials would give up much more quickly, we are confident that these mirrors will enable us to observe the sun all day long.
solutions: How important is it for you to cooperate with the industry in this respect ?
Goode: Extremely important ! In SCHOTT, we are very happy to have found a manufacturer capable of supplying us with the substrate material we needed for the mirror in such a short time. Scientific facilities, such as observatories, benefit from good cooperation with the industry.
solutions: One last question: Are you able to tell us what the space weather will be like in the near future ?
Goode: We are at the activity minimum of the solar cycle. Therefore, our current forecast is for only ”mild” space weather events. No risks are currently in sight, but we won’t be seeing the northern lights very often.
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