Press Release

Boulder, Huntsville Are ‘Final Two’ in Observatory Competition

By SpaceRef Editor
April 25, 2011
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The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA Inc.) has elected to pursue advanced negotiations with the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Alabama in Huntsville for selection of a new home to host the National Solar Observatory (NSO).

NSO is operated by AURA under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation for the benefit of the astronomical community.

“After careful review of all proposals and in consideration of the report of the peer review panel, I have directed that AURA will proceed with negotiations with CU-Boulder and UAHuntsville,” said AURA President William S. Smith Jr. in Washington. “I have informed all other proposers that that we will defer negotiations with them for the present.”

NSO’s mission is to advance knowledge of the Sun, both as an astronomical object and as the dominant external influence on Earth, by providing forefront observational opportunities to the research community. The mission includes the operation of cutting edge facilities, the continued development of advanced instrumentation both in-house and through partnerships, conducting solar research, and educational and public outreach.

NSO comprises offices and observatories in Sunspot, Sacramento Peak, NM; Tucson and Kitt Peak, AZ; and a global network. NSO has started building a 4-meter Advanced Technology Solar Telescope to go on Haleakala, Maui, HI, and is merging two existing facilities into a new worldwide Synoptic Observing Network.

These changes and planned divestiture of older telescopes, some dating to the 1950s, require that NSO consolidate its headquarters in one site. In early 2010 NSO issued a request for proposals to host a new NSO Directorate Site employing up to 70 scientists, engineers, and staff with an annual payroll of about $20 million.

Seven organizations from Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico responded. Both written offerings and on-site interviews by the AURA selection team were used in early 2011 to rank the proposals. In early April, AURA decided to focus on the top two, Boulder and Huntsville. AURA retains the option to resume negotiations with other proposers if necessary.

“I have asked CU-Boulder and UAHuntsville to arrange to visit Tucson and Sacramento Peak to discuss with the staff their vision for how they would act as NSO host site,” Smith continued. “All staff will have an opportunity to ask questions and become more familiar with what these institutions are offering.” The visits are expected in May.

A final selection is to be made by the end of the year. AURA then will propose adding the relocation to the next cooperative agreement starting in 2014. Relocation is not expected to begin before 2016.

Copies of the RFP and of pre-proposal answers are available at NSO’s main website:

SpaceRef staff editor.