Frank Hill Retires from National Solar Observatory

Press Release From: National Solar Observatory

One of the National Science Foundation’s National Solar Observatory’s longest serving scientists, Dr. Frank Hill, retired March 30, 2020, capping more than 35 years of tenure. He held a variety of roles including assistant astronomer, scientist, senior scientist and program director. Hill’s latest position was as associate director of the National Solar Observatory’s Integrated Synoptic Program (NISP).

“Frank’s career was dedicated to understanding the dynamics and magnetism of the solar interior and atmosphere, and their impacts on planet Earth,” said NSO Director Valentin Martinez Pillet. “The entire solar community is deeply thankful for his service and support to the solar and heliospheric communities.”

Notable science projects under Hill’s leadership include the creation of the global network of telescopes that provide near constant observation of the Sun, the NSF’s Global Oscillation Network Group, or GONG. It consists of six telescopes spread nearly equally around the planet offering scientists and government agencies innovative ways to study our local star from the ground. These methods include ways to “listen” to the Sun which rings like a bell and other techniques for understanding the Sun’s complex magnetic field.

“NSF is extremely grateful for Dr. Hill’s leadership of NISP, especially his work to reinvent the GONG research facility allowing it to play an increasingly important role in operational space weather prediction, vital to national security,” said David Boboltz, Program Director in NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences.

“During my long career I have been very fortunate to work with some of the most talented and brilliant scientists in the solar field,” says Luca Bertello, an NSO scientist who first met Hill in the early 1990s. “I learned from them not only the best methodologies to be used in solving difficult problems, but also the inspiration to conduct cutting-edge research. They greatly influenced the individual I am today, and Frank is definitively in this list.”

Hill grew up in Greenwich Village, New York, attending the Bronx High School of Science and receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics from City College of New York. He received a PhD in astrogeophysics from the University of Colorado, Boulder. His primary area of research is helioseismology, or the study of solar oscillations.

“Hill was a pioneer in translating acoustic signals into motions of the solar plasma below the observable surface of the Sun,” said Martinez Pillet.

For Kiran Jain, a solar scientist at NSO who has worked with Hill since the 1990s, she will miss “his grasp on the subject and explaining any topic in a simple way. His expertise on GONG data, his flexibility and patience while working with colleagues also will be missed.”

Sushanta Tripathy, another solar scientist at NSO, says he appreciated not only the deep knowledge Hill has about GONG and his simple explanations of complex topics but also his friendly nature.

“I visited NSO in January of 1994 as the first GONG site visitor from Udaipur Solar Observatory (India),” Tripathy said. “During this period I had a close interaction with Frank. He showed me the telescopes at Kitt Peak including the McMath-Pierce, VTT and High-L seismometer. But the most favorable memory is the drive from Kitt Peak to Tucson with Frank. During the drive, he showed me Saguaro National Park.”

Bertello commented, “In addition to his scientific insight I will miss his personality. Frank is a wonderful person to be around, always willing to talk to you about any topic. His positive attitude is contagious.”

Frank Hill will continue as Emeritus Astronomer with the NSO.

The National Science Foundation’s National Solar Observatory (NSO,, established in 1952, is the national center for ground-based solar physics in the United States and is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation Division of Astronomical Sciences. NSO is building the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope which when completed later this year will be the world’s largest telescope solely devoted to studying our nearest star.

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