10.5.4.6 Broadening the Definition of the National Science Foundation’s Solar-Terrestrial Research Program to Include Outer-Heliosphere Research

SHP Imperative: New scientific discoveries about the outer heliosphere may have important effects on the history and future of our planet, and this justifies broadening the scope of NSF’s Solar-Terrestrial Research program.40

Justification: NSF’s Solar-Terrestrial Research program is in the Geospace Section of the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division. To be funded, proposals to the program must demonstrate direct relevance to solar-terrestrial science or be transformational in advancing understanding of the outer solar system. Even high-quality proposals in outer-heliospheric research may not be funded if they are not perceived to be directly relevant to changing terrestrial conditions. Outer-heliosphere research is not funded in other NSF programs and is “falling between the cracks” in NSF. Recent discoveries suggest that solar interactions with the local interstellar medium may play a much larger role in influencing terrestrial conditions than previously thought. In addition, this exciting and rapidly emerging field is providing new insights into processes occurring in the Sun, solar wind, planetary magnetospheres and atmospheres, and the galaxy. All that suggests that the definition of solar-terrestrial research in NSF should be broadened to include solar wind interactions with the local interstellar medium.

10.5.5 Multiagency Imperatives

10.5.5.1 Ground-Based Solar Observations

SHP Imperative: The SHP panel gives high priority to NSF’s and other agencies’ support (where it is appropriate to their missions) of continuation of ground-based observations of the Sun.41

Justification: The Sun’s scientific and societal importance stimulates a broad array of research approaches. Much of the current understanding of the Sun originates in observations made on the ground. Continuing ground-based observations serve crucial roles in studies of long-term variations of the Sun, in attaining the highest spatial resolution of solar features, in measuring wavelengths from the infrared to the radio, in exploring new ideas, in testing numerical models, in developing new instruments, and in verifying space-based results. National and university-based solar observatories are supported mainly by NSF, and support from mission-oriented agencies is sometimes available when specific mission objectives align with ground-based capabilities. In spite of an outstanding record of scientific accomplishments, support for ground-based observations and for research based on them has eroded. The SHP panel believes that agencies, especially NSF, should work to reverse that trend.

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40 G.P. Zank, Role of the National Science Foundation ATM/GEO in Promoting and Supporting Space Physics, white paper submitted to the Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics), Paper 284.

41 T. Ayres and D. Longcope, Ground-based Solar Physics in the Era of Space Astronomy, white paper submitted to the Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics), Paper 3; F. Hill et al., The Need for Synoptic Optical Solar Observations from the Ground, white paper submitted to the Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics), Paper 108; A. Pevtsov, Current and Future State of Ground-based Solar Physics in the U.S., white paper submitted to the Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics), Paper 218; A.G. Kosovichev, Solar Dynamo, white paper submitted to the Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics), Paper 141.



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