Science Results Archive 2019

An international scientific team led by Dr. Alessio Caratti o Garatti from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (Ireland) for the first time observed and analyzed an outburst from a high-mass young stellar object that was caused by material accreting onto the star.

Researchers on board NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, observed the collapse of portions of six interstellar clouds on their way to becoming new stars that will be much larger than our sun.

When a gas cloud collapses on itself, the cloud’s own gravity causes it to contract and the contraction produces heat friction. Heat from the contraction eventually causes the core to ignite hydrogen fusion reactions creating a star.

A team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has been selected to develop a new, third-generation facility science instrument for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA.

Using data collected by NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) and other observatories, an international team of researchers has studied how a particular type of organic molecules, the raw materials for life – could develop in space. This information could help scientists better understand how life could have developed on Earth.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand, to study the Southern Hemisphere’s skies June 6.

NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR, have extended their agreement to continue Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, science observations until the end of 2020. The renewal agreement was signed on June 2, 2016, at the ILA Berlin Air Show by Dava Newman, deputy administrator of NASA, Pascale Ehrenfreund, chair of the DLR Executive Board, and Gerd Gruppe, member of the DLR Executive Board responsible for Space Administration.

The newest instrument, an infrared camera called the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus (HAWC+), was installed on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, this week. This is the only currently operating astronomical camera that makes images using far-infrared light, allowing studies of low-temperature early stages of star and planet formation. HAWC+ includes a polarimeter, a device that measures the alignment of incoming light waves.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, began its fourth annual cycle of science flights on February 3, 2016.

SOFIA is a heavily modified Boeing 74SP jetliner that carries a 100-inch (2.5-meter) telescope to altitudes between 39,000 to 45,000 feet (12 to 14 km), above more than 99 percent of Earth's atmospheric water vapor, giving astronomers the ability to study celestial objects at infrared wavelengths that cannot be seen from ground-based observatories.

Science results from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy were featured in a special session held at the American Astronomical Society’s annual meeting, Jan. 8, 2016, in Kissimmee, Florida. The airborne observatory reached full operational status in May 2014; the fruits of its early science programs are beginning to be available to the scientific community.

The competition to develop a third generation instrument for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has been narrowed to two proposed instruments. Over the course of the next few months, the two proposal teams will work to produce detailed concept studies. Based on those studies, one of those instruments will be selected to begin development by Fall 2016, with a targeted completion date in 2018. Both of the proposed instruments are intended to expand the SOFIA airborne observatory’s spectroscopic capabilities.

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.