Science Results Archive 2012

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft has recently received major upgrades to its observatory and avionics systems that will significantly improve the systems' efficiency and operability.

Scientific results from observations made in 2011 from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, show the first detection in the interstellar medium of two molecules, the mercapto radical SH and the deuterated hydroxyl radical OD. SH is important for the investigation of sulfur chemistry in the interstellar medium, and OD, a version of hydroxyl (OH) with the hydrogen atom replaced by a heavier deuterium atom, plays a corresponding role in understanding the chemical pathways for formation of water in the universe.

The 2.5-meter mirror on NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy telescope was cleaned recently in preparation for its first full cycle of science observations. Telescope technicians at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility used water, a mild detergent and a small filtered blower to remove dust and other material that had adhered to the mirror's surface.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, a joint program between NASA and the German Aerospace Center DLR, is set to begin its first full cycle of science flights starting in November 2012 and extending through December 2013. SOFIA’s Science Mission Operations Director Erick Young today announced the list of researchers who have been awarded time to study the universe with this unique infrared observatory.

Information about the star formation process, as well as early tests of the optical quality and stability of the telescope in NASA's Statospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), were provided by analyses of infrared images of the Sharpless 140 nebula performed by Paul Harvey of the University of Texas at Austin with collaborators from Cornell University, Ithaca College, and the SOFIA scientific staff. The results of their work were published in a May 2012 special SOFIA-dedicated issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Research by SOFIA scientist John Vaillancourt (Universities Space Research Association, NASA Ames Research Center, Calif.) and Brenda C. Matthews (Herzberg Institute, National Research Council of Canada, Victoria, B.C., Canada) on interstellar clouds in the Milky Way Galaxy was recently published in the The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, a venue for presentation of very large data sets.

In fall 2010, displays depicting the history and achievements of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) were installed at three Northern California venues – NASA Ames’ Exploration Center, the Ames Aerospace Encounter, and the Hiller Aviation Museum. One year later, more than 150,000 guests have seen the displays and had an introduction to astronomy at infrared wavelengths.

Margaret M. Hanson, associate editor-in-chief of The Astronomical Journal, cited three recent scientific papers that highlight the diversity of research being conducted by the Galactic community.

The Astrophysical Journal, a leading U.S. astronomy research publication, issued a special edition of its Letters volume on April 20 with papers about observations made with SOFIA.

SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that carries a telescope with a 100-inch (2.5-meter) diameter reflecting mirror that conducts astronomy research not possible with ground-based telescopes. By operating in the stratosphere at altitudes up to 45,000 feet, SOFIA can make observations above the water vapor in Earth's lower atmosphere.

NASA has selected a science instrument upgrade to the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) airborne observatory. The instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera (HAWC), will provide a sensitive, versatile and reliable imaging capability to the SOFIA user community. The upgrade involves two proposals that will allow the observatory to measure the structure and strength of magnetic fields in diverse objects throughout the universe, such as star-forming clouds and galaxies.

Researchers using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have captured infrared images of the last exhalations of a dying sun-like star.

The object observed by SOFIA, planetary nebula Minkowski 2-9, or M2-9 for short, is seen in this three-color composite image. The SOFIA observations were made at the mid-infrared wavelengths of 20, 24, and 37 microns. The 37-micron wavelength band detects the strongest emissions from the nebula and is impossible to observe from ground-based telescopes.

SOFIA is the subject of the new "Destination Innovation" video series produced at NASA Ames. Episode 2, "Window to the Hidden Universe," was produced by the Ames Video team with support from the Dryden Public Affairs video staff. The video is available on YouTube and VMIX.

The American Museum of Natural History has launched SOFIA: Stars and the Space Between, an 8-minute video that will play at the museum for the next six months. It's also available on YouTube.

Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History.

To inspire and encourage young girls to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions, NASA has expanded the Women@NASA program with a second round of honorees to showcase at its website.

The SOFIA team is proud to recognize SOFIA Project Scientist Pamela Marcum having been selected as a Women@NASA Honoree. Get to know Pamela Marcum at: http://women.nasa.gov/pamela-marcum/

Release 12-027

Twenty-six educators from the United States have been selected for research flights aboard SOFIA, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. As participants in the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program, the educators will partner with professional astronomers using SOFIA for scientific observations in 2012 and 2013.

Researchers using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have captured new images of a recently born cluster of massive stars named W3A. The cluster is seen (inset) lurking in the depths of the large gas and dust cloud from which it formed. The larger image shows the overall structure of the W3 region, lying 6,400 light years away in the direction of the constellation Perseus, as seen at near-infrared wavelengths by the Spitzer Space Telescope.