Science Results Archive

NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the SOFIA Science Center, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) have announced the selection of 51 investigations to study the universe using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). SOFIA, a joint program between NASA and the DLR, is set to begin its second full cycle of science flights from February through December 2014.

By Nicholas A. Veronico

In today’s climate of ever-shrinking budgets and the demand to do more with less, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has become the beneficiary of two now-completed aircraft programs – the retirement of the 747 Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) and the 747 Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). Millions of dollars worth of parts used to support those programs have been, or will soon be transferred to NASA to keep SOFIA in the air for many years to come.

Gordon Fullerton, test pilot, shuttle astronaut, and pilot-in-command for SOFIA's first test flight in 2007, passed away August 21 at age 76. SOFIA's Program Manager Eddie Zavala said, "It seemed as though Gordo flew everything and anything that he could. Many of our Dryden team members, myself included, knew Gordo well and had the privilege of working with him on numerous flight research projects."

Link to Antelope Valley Press news article:

Eddie Zavala, NASA SOFIA Program Manager

Fly 6,900 miles each way, deploy a cadre of flight- and ground-crewmembers along with an international science team for three weeks, and during that time fly three nights per week, 10-hours per flight, while conducting world-class science. It’s a lot to imagine, and even greater to have accomplished it all.

NASA's SOFIA airborne observatory will be based in New Zealand for the next two weeks, taking advantage of the Southern Hemisphere's orientation to study celestial objects that are difficult or impossible to see in the northern sky.

Researchers using the airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have captured the most detailed mid-infrared images yet of a massive star condensing within a dense cocoon of dust and gas.

The star is G35.20-0.74, more commonly known as G35. It is one of the most massive known protostars and is located relatively close to Earth at a distance of 8,000 light years.

On the afternoon of April 11, 2013, members of SOFIA's staff gathered to commemorate the 100th flight of NASA's airborne observatory. SOFIA departed from the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility at Palmdale, Calif., that evening at 7:09 p.m. local time.

The first four Airborne Astronomy Ambassador (AAA) educators returned safely to Earth, landing in Palmdale, Calif. early in the morning Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, after completing their initial flight on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA.

That flight launched the AAA program’s first full year of operations, during which 26 educators from classrooms and science centers across the United States will fly on SOFIA as partners with scientists conducting astronomy research using the airborne observatory.

Helen Hall, University Space Research Association (USRA) associate director for Program Management for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), was recently recognized by SPIE Women in Optics, the international society for optics and photonics, for inclusion in the organization’s 2013-2014 date planner.

SPIE’s Women in Optics group promotes personal and professional growth for women through community building, networking opportunities, and encouraging young women to choose careers in optical tecnology.

Researchers using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have captured new images of a ring of gas and dust seven light-years in diameter surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and of a neighboring cluster of extremely luminous young stars embedded in dust cocoons.

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.

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