Science Results

The planetary nebula BD+30 3639 was imaged by SOFIA using FORCAST (Faint Object InfraRed Camera for the SOFIA Telescope; P.I. T. Herter, Cornell University) at wavelengths of 6.4, 7.7, 11.1, 11.3, and 33.6 microns. BD+30 3639 (also known as PN G064.7+05.0) is located at a distance of 1.2 kiloparsecs.

Atomic oxygen is a key component in regulation of energy and mass exchanges within the Martian atmosphere. Neutral atomic oxygen (O I) was detected in the Martian atmosphere at a frequency of 4.7 THz (63 μm) on 14 May 2014 using the high-frequency channel of the far-infrared heterodyne spectrometer GREAT (German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies; P.I. Rolf Güsten, Max Planck Institut für Radioastronomie) onboard SOFIA. The [O I] line was found in absorption against the Mars continuum with a high signal-to-noise ratio (see figures).

An international team led by scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California at Davis used the EXES high-resolution mid-infrared spectrometer onboard SOFIA to determine the amount and location of water molecules around protostar AFGL 2591.  AFGL 2591 is object number 2591 in a catalog of strong infrared sources discovered by a series of small infrared telescopes launched in rockets during the 1960s by the Air Force Geophysical Laboratory.

The first observations of an extrasolar planet by NASA’s SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) are reported in a paper published online on July 8 in the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems (JATIS) by Daniel Angerhausen (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and collaborators.

SOFIA measurements of ionized carbon and nitrogen gas at the edge of the Central Molecular Zone (CMZ) of the Milky Way were made with the GREAT far-IR heterodyne spectrometer (P.I. Rolf Güsten, MPIfR) as a part of SOFIA’s Guest Investigator program. The observations were made over the course of several nights in July 2013 during SOFIA’s first Southern Hemisphere deployment.

The CMZ is a 400 pc x 80 pc region around the galactic center containing 10 million solar masses of giant molecular clouds, many regions of active star formation, and frequent supernova explosions. 

SOFIA made observations of ionized carbon (CII) at the center of IC 342 galaxy using the GREAT (German REceiver for Astronomy at Terahertz frequencies) far-IR spectrometer in September 2011 as part of the mission’s Early Science program.

SOFIA/FORCAST images of the H II (ionized hydrogen) complex G0.02-0.07 resolved a string of three compact HII regions (labeled A, B, and C in Figure 1) plus two new infrared sources designated FIRS 1 and 2 (Figures 1 and 2). G0.02-0.07 is located in the Sagittarius A (Sgr A) region, 6 pc (20 light years) from our line of sight to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Galactic Center includes a hot, turbulent interstellar medium, cloud-cloud collisions, stellar winds, and supernova shocks.

Studying the universe at infrared wavelengths enables astronomers to detect stars and planets forming, to view the supermassive black holes at the center of our galaxy through obscuring clouds of interstellar dust, to understand the life cycle of organic substances in space, and to determine the chemical composition of comets, asteroids, and planetary atmospheres.

CO emission observed by SOFIA/GREAT (12CO 11-10) and APEX (other lines) from supernova remnant W28.

Observations of supernova remnant W28 were made with the GREAT far-IR spectrometer during SOFIA’s Early Science program in 2011.

W28 is located in the inner part of the Milky Way Galaxy, near a large star-forming complex with HII regions including the well-known Trifid Nebula (Messier 20). W28 is about six thousand light-year from Earth and the supernova remnant is estimated to be about 20,000 years old.