Science Results Archive 2015

The SOFIA Science Center announces selection of astrophysics research programs for science flights during the observatory’s fourth annual cycle of operations. These investigations will be conducted from February 2016 through January 2017, including a deployment to the Southern Hemisphere planned for mid-2016.

A list of the selected SOFIA Cycle 4 programs is available on the results page.

On Sept. 15, five educators participating in NASA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program, boarded the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and boldly went where no ambassadors have gone before – into the stratosphere with Nichelle Nichols, actress, cultural icon, and science advocate.

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has returned from a six-week deployment to study portions of the universe visible only from Earth's Southern Hemisphere. The flying observatory was based at the National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctic Program facility at Christchurch International Airport from June 15 to July 24.

In a special celestial event visible only from the Southern Hemisphere, Pluto passed directly between a distant star and the Earth on the morning of June 30, New Zealand time (June 29 in the U.S.). As the dwarf planet and its atmosphere were backlit by the star, this “occultation” caused a faint shadow of Pluto to move across the surface of Earth at more than 53,000 mph, creating a ripe opportunity to perform scientific analysis – if instruments and observers could be in the right place at the right time.

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, departed from Christchurch, New Zealand at 6:20 pm local time June 19 for the first of 15 planned Southern Hemisphere deployment science flights.

For the next five weeks SOFIA will operate from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Program facility at Christchurch International Airport. Flying out of New Zealand enables SOFIA to study celestial objects that are more easily observed, or can only be observed, from southern latitudes.

The German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) has undergone a transformation. The far-infrared spectrometer was upgraded from one to 14 detectors and was renamed "upGREAT." The addition of the new detectors has improved the instrument's sensitivity by 30 percent. Read more.

Using NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an international scientific team discovered that supernovae are capable of producing a substantial amount of the material from which planets like Earth can form.

These findings are published in the March 19 online issue of Science magazine.

"Our observations reveal a particular cloud produced by a supernova explosion 10,000 years ago contains enough dust to make 7,000 Earths," said Ryan Lau of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Working to expand professional development opportunities for science educators across the United States, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy program, known as SOFIA, has selected 14 two-person teams for its 2015 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors.

The flying observatory is a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner carrying a 100-inch (2.5-meter) effective diameter telescope. Fitted with instruments that collect data at infrared wavelengths, SOFIA flies at altitudes between 39,000 and 45,000 feet (12-14 kilometers) on 10-hour overnight science missions.

SOFIA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador (AAA) Jean Creighton discusses her path to astronomy and the SOFIA AAA program in this Tedx lecture at the University Wisconsin Milwaukee. 

Creighton was one of 24 selected educators to fly on SOFIA in 2014. She and the other educators are bringing the experience back to their classrooms and communities to promote science literacy.

Click on the video below to view the lecture, or view it on YouTube.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, Program began its third season of science flights on Jan. 13, 2015. SOFIA is NASA's next generation flying observatory and is fitted with a 2.5-meter (100-inch) diameter telescope that studies the universe at infrared wavelengths.