Big Bear Solar Observatory

Written by K. Hart at
Big Bear Solar Observatory main building
inside Big Bear Solar Observatory
road to the observatory
BBSP telescope


For a heavenly experience while vacationing in Big Bear, explore the Big Bear Solar Observatory, also known as BBSO.

This fascinating facility was established in 1970 and offers a unique and unforgettable experience for all astronomy enthusiasts.

Big Bear Solar Observatory is operated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology and is dedicated to exploring our Sun's mysteries. Scientists and researchers focus on solar research, unraveling the secrets of our closest star.

Perched on a peninsula in the middle of Big Bear Lake, the observatory's location is crucial in ensuring high-quality solar images. The lake's calm waters create a stable atmosphere, allowing researchers and visitors alike to enjoy remarkably crisp and clear views of the sun. 

Most observations and tours are during the daytime when the sun is out. But there are nightly observations when using the Earthshine telescope. Observation schedules are governed by the phase of the Moon.

There are three buildings with telescopes at Big Bear Solar Observatory. The large building contains the New Solar Telescope (NST), a 1.6 m solar telescope. The small dome beside it houses two telescopes on one mount, the hydrogen-alpha solar flare patrol telescope and the Earthshine telescope. The rectangular building on the shoreline contains our GONG telescope.

GONG is the acronym for Global Oscillation Network Group and is part of the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. GONG operates six identical telescopes worldwide to study the internal oscillations of the Sun.

BBSO is a one-of-a-kind observatory that has become a must-visit spot for those seeking to combine their love for the cosmic with the great outdoors. 

Fun Facts & Cool Features 

One fascinating feature of BBSO is the New Solar Telescope (NST), the world's largest clear-aperture solar telescope. With an impressive 1.6-meter aperture, the NST can capture detailed images of the sun's surface. Scientists can then study the sun's magnetic fields, solar flares, and other phenomena.

Another cool feature is the Visible Imaging Spectrometer (VIS), a unique instrument that combines aspects of both imaging and spectroscopy. The VIS provides researchers with valuable data on the sun's magnetic fields, which play a critical role in understanding solar activity and its impact on Earth.

The observatory is also home to the Full Disk Ha Telescope (FDHT), which captures daily images of the entire solar disk in the hydrogen-alpha (Ha) wavelength. These images help scientists track changes in the sun's magnetic fields and monitor space weather.

Besides the cutting-edge research facilities, visitors to the observatory can enjoy the stunning natural beauty of Big Bear Lake. With the observatory surrounded by water, the breathtaking views make for an unforgettable experience.

Getting There 

  • Start your journey in Big Bear, California. 
  • Head east on Big Bear Blvd toward Big Bear Lake. 
  • Turn right onto North Shore Drive. 
  • Follow North Shore Drive until you reach North Shore Lane. 
  • Turn right onto North Shore Lane. 
  • Continue on North Shore Lane to the Big Bear Solar Observatory entrance.
  • Address: 40386 N Shore Ln, Big Bear, CA 92314


  • There is no cost to visit the Big Bear Solar Observatory.
  • Please check their website tour schedule and  updates.

Local Tips

  • Tours are every Thursday from 2-3 PM.
  • Dress in layers, as the weather in Big Bear can change quickly.
  • Although the tour is free, consider making a donation. 
  • The tour may not be suitable for some. You must be able to walk 1000' down and back on a gravel road and climb three flights of stairs.
  • Arrive early to find the best spot to view the sun and ensure you get the most out of your visit.
  • Check out nearby hiking trails and nature spots to maximize your day in Big Bear.


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