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SOFIA at 237th AAS Meeting

The SOFIA Science Center is organizing the special session 'Assessing the Impact of Stellar Feedback' at the 237th AAS meeting (online). The oral session will be held on Tuesday January 12, from 4:10 pm to 5:40 pm (Eastern Time). More information here.

SOFIA Returns to Flight

SOFIA has returned to science operations with a new series of flights designed to study the chemistry of galaxies. SOFIA flights were suspended on March 19 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the resumption of flights out of SOFIA’s base at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, new procedures are in place to ensure the health and safety of staff while enabling the observations of celestial targets visible from the Northern Hemisphere. SOFIA started by flying two flights beginning Aug. 17, to allow the team time to evaluate and adjust the new procedures, and now plans to return to its regular observing schedule with about four flights each week. Read the full announcement here.

Cycle 9 Calls for Proposals

The Cycle 9 proposal call is closed. The deadline for submitting proposals was September 4, 2020, 21:00 PDT (September 5, 2020, 4:00 UTC). Proposal selections will be announced in winter 2020. Detailed information about the Cycle 9 calls can be found on the Cycle 9 page.

Two Calls for Proposals are offered:

- A Call for regular programs, for which approximately 500 hours of observations will be offered and funding up to $4M is expected to be available for eligible proposers

- A Call for the SOFIA Legacy Program, which enables programs producing a rich archival dataset of significant scientific value to the astronomical community. Up to four legacy proposals will be accepted, with each allocated up to ~400 hours of observing time (~200 hours of observations per cycle). Funding is expected to be available at the level of $2M per year.

All six instruments -- EXES, FIFI-LS, FORCAST, FPI+, GREAT, and HAWC+ -- will be available during the Cycle (July 1, 2021 to September 31, 2022). SOFIA plans to offer three Southern deployments: two long deployments from July to mid-September 2021 and 2022, offering GREAT and HAWC+, and a short deployment in March 2022 offering FIFI-LS. A formal update to the Calls was released on July 24, 2020.

The HelpDesk is open to answer any question and inquiry from the community: sofia_help@sofia.usra.edu.

New Science Mission Operations Director

The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) appointed Dr. Margaret Meixner as the Director of SOFIA’s Science Mission Operations, effective April 13, 2020. As director, Meixner will provide scientific, technical and management guidance to SOFIA. She will work in partnership with the German SOFIA Institute (DSI), and in close collaboration with NASA, to maximize the scientific productivity and impact of the observatory.

New Science Mission Operations Director Dr. Margaret Meixner

Prior to joining USRA, Meixner held several leadership positions at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), including Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope and Instruments Division Deputy. Since 2016, she has been Community Co-Chair of the Origins Space Telescope Science and Technology Definition Team. She is also a Principal Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University, and a member of NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee.

A recipient of several awards and honors, Meixner was named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2015 and recognized for her leadership in infrared instrumentation for astronomy.  She was also awarded the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Science Achievement Award in 2009, and the 1994 Annie Jump Cannon Special Commendation of Honor.

Meixner earned her B.S. degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics in 1987 from the University of Maryland, College Park, and received her master and doctorate degrees in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley.

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