SOFIA Highlights: Solar system
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR, has been used extensively to look many objects in the universe, from black holes to galaxies and even the Moon.
A decade ago, German researcher Heinz Hübers led a team to improve one of SOFIA’s infrared instruments – the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, or GREAT – with a new laser technology. He realized that the upgrade would not only help to study the distant cosmos, it could also be used much closer to home.
By Charles “Chick” Woodward, Kassandra Bell, and Joan Schmelz
Paper: The Coma Dust of Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina): A Window into Carbon in the Solar System
Woodward, Charles E., et al., 2021/02, PSJ, , 2.
By Kassandra Bell, Arielle Moullet, and Joan Schmelz
Paper: Haze in Pluto’s atmosphere: Results from SOFIA and Ground-based Observations of the 2015 June 29 Pluto Occultation
M. J. Person et al., 2020, Icarus, in press.
By Casey Honniball, Paul Lucey, and Joan Schmelz
Paper: Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA
C.I. Honniball, et al., Nature Astronomy 2020.
Researchers using SOFIA have made the ﬁrst-ever detection of the water molecule (H2O) on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery reﬁnes our understanding of the behavior of water and how volatile elements and compounds interact with airless bodies throughout the Solar System and beyond.
Scientists were already excited to learn this summer that New Horizons’ next flyby target – a Kuiper Belt object a billion miles past Pluto -- might be either peanut-shaped or even two objects orbiting one another. Now new data hints that 2014 MU69 might have orbital company: a small moon.
Comets are our most direct link to the earliest stages of the formation and evolution of the solar system. Only every few years is a new comet discovered that is making its first trip to the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud, a zone of icy objects enveloping the solar system. Such opportunities offer astronomers a chance to study a special class of comets.
Researchers on the flying observatory SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, are preparing for a two-minute opportunity to study the atmosphere of Neptune’s moon Triton as it casts a faint shadow on Earth’s surface. This is the first chance to investigate Triton’s atmosphere in 16 years.
NASA’s flying observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, recently completed a detailed study of a nearby planetary system. The investigations confirmed that this nearby planetary system has an architecture remarkably similar to that of our solar system.