The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope is the image I selected for the "Scientific Bent" blog for some obvious reasons. It reeks of science and it has that marvelous angle.

The telescope turns 50 this year, as the National Science Foundation gets ready to withdraw funding for it in favor of the big, new Advanced Technology Solar Telescope being built in Hawaii.

It's always easier to get excited about the latest big thing, as illustrated by this letter from JFK, read at the dedication of the McMath-Pierce in 1962.

Note: the letter refers to the Papago Tribal Council — the name previously used by the Tohono O'odham Nation. 

"The great new solar telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona is a source of pride to the nation. The largest instrument for solar research in the world, it presents American astronomers with a unique tool for investigating the nearest of the stars, our sun.

This project is of exceptional interest to all our citizens, for the observatory is financed by the Federal Government through the National Science Foundation, and is available to qualified scientists with meritorious programs of research.

Bold in concept and magnificent in execution, the instrument is the crowning achievement of the career of the late Robert. R. McMath, builder of solar telescopes, for whom it is named.

I extend the gratitude of the nation to Dr. McMath's family and especially his wife, Mary Ridgely McMath. The thanks of the nation go also to the Papago Indian Tribal Council, and the members of the tribe, for welcoming the National Observatory at Kitt Peak.

This mountain notable in the ancient lore of the tribe, will now have a salient role in the modern exploration of the sun and the universe of stars." John F. Kennedy October 22, 1962