Science Results Archive

What’s fueling the massive ejection of gas and dust out of the Cigar galaxy, otherwise known as Messier 82?

We know that thousands of stars bursting into existence are driving a powerful super-wind that’s blowing matter into intergalactic space. New research shows that magnetic fields are also contributing to the expulsion of material from Messier 82, a well-known example of a starburst galaxy with a distinctive, elongated shape.

Not all appears as it would seem in the Whirlpool galaxy. One of the best-studied spiral galaxies and a delight to amateur astronomers, Messier 51, as it’s officially named, is influenced by powerful, invisible forces.

By Kassandra Bell, Arielle Moullet, and Joan Schmelz

Paper: Haze in Pluto’s atmosphere: Results from SOFIA and Ground-based Observations of the 2015 June 29 Pluto Occultation
 M. J. Person et al., 2020, Icarus, in press.

By Kevin Cooke, Allison Kirkpatrick, and Joan Schmelz

Paper: Dying of the Light: An X-Ray Fading Cold Quasar at z ~ 0.405
Cooke, K. C. et al., 2020 ApJ 903 106

By Cristian Guevara and Joan Schmelz

Paper: [C II] 158 µm self-absorption and optical depth effects
Guevara, C., et al., 2020/04, A&A, 636A, A16.

Photodissociation Regions (PDRs) are zones of the interstellar medium in which Far-UV photons dominate the thermal balance, chemistry, structure, as well as the distribution of the gas and dust. The incident FUV field photodissociates molecules, photoionizes atoms and molecules, and heats the gas and dust.

By Casey Honniball, Paul Lucey, and Joan Schmelz

Paper: Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA
C.I. Honniball, et al., Nature Astronomy 2020.

Researchers using SOFIA have made the first-ever detection of the water molecule (H2O) on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery refines our understanding of the behavior of water and how volatile elements and compounds interact with airless bodies throughout the Solar System and beyond.

By Elena Redaelli and Joan Schmelz

Paper: Magnetic Properties of the Protostellar Core IRAS 15398-3359
E. Redaelli, et al., 2019 A&A, 631, A154.

By Thushara Pillai and Joan Schmelz

Paper: Magnetized filamentary gas flows feeding the young embedded cluster in Serpens South
Pillai, T.G., et al., 2020, Nat Astron (2020).

By Kathleen Kraemer, Boston College and Gregory Sloan, Cornell University

Paper: Stellar Pulsation and the Production of Dust and Molecules in Galactic Carbon Stars
K. E. Kraemer, et al., 2019, ApJ, 887, 1.

By Yoko Okada, University of Cologne

Paper: First Detection of [13C II] in the Large Magellanic Cloud
Y. Okada, et al., 2019, A&A, 631L, 12O.

By Joan Schmelz (USRA)

By Matthew Hankins
Paper: SOFIA/FORCAST Galactic Center Legacy Survey: Overview
Hankins et al., 2020, ApJ.

SOFIA’s first completed legacy program provides researchers with a vastly improved view of warm dust in the center of the Galaxy, revealing signatures of star formation in exquisite detail. 

By Wanggi Lim and Joan Schmelz
Paper: Surveying the Giant H ii Regions of the Milky Way with SOFIA. II. M17
Lim, et al., 2020, ApJ, 888, 98.

By Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez and Joan Schmelz
Paper: SOFIA/HAWC+ Traces the Magnetic Felds in NGC 1068
Lopez-Rodriguez  et al., 2020, ApJ, 888, 66.

New measurements of the magnetic field in the grand-design spiral galaxy, NGC 1068, confirm predictions of the density wave theory.

By Maggie Thompson, Ralph Shuping, and Joan Schmelz

Paper: Studying the Evolution of Warm Dust Encircling BD +20 307 Using SOFIA
Thompson, Maggie A., et al., 2019, ApJ, 875, 45.

Recent observations from SOFIA of a binary star system designated BD +20 307 indicate that there may have been a catastrophic collision between two planets within the last 10 years.

By Joan Schmelz

How do astronomers understand galaxies that are so far away that they may appear as a simple point source, even when observed with the most powerful telescopes? One proven technique is to study local analogues, galaxies that might have similar properties but are close enough to resolve their structures. A study like this was underway when researchers discovered something extraordinary – their observation was 10 times stronger than predicted.

By Kassandra Bell and Joan Schmelz

Supermassive black holes exist at the center of most galaxies, and our Milky Way is no exception. But many other galaxies have highly active black holes, meaning a lot of material is falling into them, emitting high-energy radiation in this “feeding” process. The Milky Way’s central black hole, on the other hand, is relatively quiet. New observations from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, are helping scientists understand the differences between active and quiet black holes.

By Darek Lis, Dominique Bockelée-Morvan, and Rolf Güsten

Paper: Terrestrial deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio in water in hyperactive comets
Lis et al., A&A 625, L5 (2019) doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201935554

By Kimberly Ennico Smith

Paper: Astrophysical detection of the helium hydride ion HeH+
Güsten et al. Nature, 17 April 2019, doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1090-x