Skip directly to content

Hilltop Dome Facility

Sub Type:
Research Areas:
NSF Award:

Management, Operations, and Associated Projects for the National Solar Observatory  (AURA/National Optical Astronomy Observatories)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Hilltop Dome Facility, on Sacramento Peak in New Mexico, houses several telescopes with a guider system that keeps them centered on the sun as the sun moves across the sky.  The roof rotates to allow the telescopes to see and record images of the sun anywhere in the sky.
The facility's cameras take regular pictures of the features and activity of the sun, including sunspots and solar flares. The cameras show both images of what the sun looks like to the human eye, and others in a color that highlights the hydrogen atoms in the sun, providing a clearer image of activity such as filaments and flares.  Every day, a pencil drawing of the sun is made to record the locations of sunspots, a system that has been used for hundreds of years to track the variations in solar cycles.

The Hilltop Dome Facility is part of the National Solar Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

Education & Outreach

The facilities of the National Solar Observatory offer numerous opportunities for hands-on education and training for all levels of students and teachers, as well as educational materials for classroom use. The activities include NSF-supported Research Experiences for Teachers, in which K-12 teachers conduct hands-on research at the observatory, alongside professional astronomers and engineers.

For higher education students, the observatory offers the opportunity to study and train with professional mentors--through NSF-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates, and summer research assistantships for graduate students.

Visit Web Site


  • Hilltop Dome solar telescope