Science Results Archive

On June 23, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) observed the dwarf planet Pluto as it passed in front of a distant star. This event, known as an “occultation,” allowed scientific analysis of Pluto and its atmosphere by flying SOFIA at the right moment to an exact location where Pluto’s shadow fell on Earth.

On June 23, 2011 SOFIA observed an occultation by dwarf planet Pluto of a comparably bright (V ~ +14) star using two instruments simultaneously: HIPO (High Speed Photometer for Occultations; P.I. = Ted Dunham, Lowell Observatory) and FDC (Fast Diagnostic Camera; P.I. = Jürgen Wolf, DSI). The results were published in Person et al. 2013, Astrophysical Journal 146, 83.

Using Ustream, SOFIA Program Scientist Pamela Marcum and SOFIA Public Affairs Officer Nicholas A. Veronico reviewed the SOFIA program to date during a 45-minute webchat. The webchat featured a short video describing the SOFIA modifications followed by Marcum's explanation of how the flying observatory works and the benefits of flying an infrared telescope.

NASA has selected six teachers to work with scientists aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) during research flights in May and June. This is the first team of educators selected to participate in SOFIA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, completed its first science flight using the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) scientific instrument on Wednesday, April 6. GREAT is a high-resolution far-infrared spectrometer that finely divides and sorts light into component colors for detailed analysis.

During the past year SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, achieved the program’s goals and passed the program’s milestones at a pace almost as fast as the observatory can fly.

At the end of 2009, SOFIA’s engineering team succeeded in flying the observatory for more than an hour with the telescope cavity door fully open. Having achieved this success, 2010 began with additional in-flight testing of the telescope cavity door and its software system.

The German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, or GREAT, instrument was successfully mounted on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, airborne observatory for the first time on Jan. 21, 2011. A number of tests will follow before the first scientific flights of SOFIA with GREAT take place in April 2011.

"Thanks to all who participated in the project over the years and contributed to the completion of the instrument," said Rolf Guesten, principal investigator for GREAT at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

A mid-infrared mosaic image from SOFIA (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) offers new information about processes of star formation in and around the nebula Messier 42 in the constellation Orion. The image data were acquired using the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope, or FORCAST, (principal investigator Terry Herter, Cornell University) during SOFIA’s Short Science 1 observing program in December 2010.

Fifteen years after its final flight, veterans of the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, or KAO, gathered at NASA’s Ames Research Center last Nov. 10 to witness the opening of a time capsule.

The KAO is a highly modified Lockheed C-141A cargo transport fitted with a 36-inch telescope. The observatory was based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., for operations that began in 1974 and lasted 22 years before the flying observatory was retired in 1995.

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, completed the first of three science flights on Wednesday morning to demonstrate the aircraft's potential to make discoveries about the infrared universe.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a joint program by NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), achieved a major milestone May 26, 2010, when the airborne observatory made its first in-flight nighttime observations. Astronomers call the first observations by a new observatory “first light.”

For the first time, scientists have peered at the stars using the newly installed telescope aboard NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the largest airborne observatory in the world.

During the night of Aug. 18-19 in its first ground-based 'on-sky test,' the telescope was pointed at the star Polaris. A crisp white dot appeared on astronomers' computer screens inside the aircraft, demonstrating that the telescope's basic optical, mechanical and software systems all are functioning properly.

Columbia, Maryland--The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) announced today that it has selected Evergreen International Airlines to operate and maintain NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft.

Evergreen International Airlines will provide operational support, flight crews, and training and dispatch, while Evergreen Air Center will provide heavy maintenance and support.

Waco, Texas --The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) announced on April 25, 2004 that SOFIA has successfully completed the Cabin Proof Pressure Test.

All major components of the telescope, excepting the secondary and tertiary mirrors, have now been installed in the SOFIA aircraft. In addition, all control and support equipment is now in place and has been shown to function correctly. A major milestone was reached in November when the 1.2 meter spherical hydrostatic bearing was successfully used to float the ten-ton SOFIA telescope on 50 atmospheres of oil pressure. At that point the telescope could be moved easily by one person. The telescope servo control system was closed around the electronic fiber optic gyros in early December.

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