The upcoming online workshop "Signatures of AGN Feedback: The Post-SOFIA Era" on October 20, will present recent impactful observational results on AGN feedback from SOFIA observations, and offer the opportunity for AGN observers to discuss the current status and future approaches for IR AGN research. Topics include the status of MHD modeling of AGN feedback, infrared observations of feedback signatures such as galactic winds, shocks and turbulence, magnetic field structure, and AGN-induced star formation. A panel discussion will focus on the role of IR studies in the current observational landscape.
SOFIA is pleased to invite proposals for SOFIA Archival Research Programs (SARP), aimed at encouraging the use of SOFIA archival observations for impactful science.
This program will fund archival research projects primarily using SOFIA data to encourage the use of available SOFIA archival data in the Infrared Science Archive (IRSA). Two distinct types of proposals for the archival research program are solicited in this round:
- Regular Proposals - Large programs funded at up to $175,000 per year, or more in exceptional cases. Regular Proposals may request funds for up to two years.
- Small Proposals - Targeted programs funded at up to $50,000-$75,000. Small Proposals may request funds for up to one year.
This call is open to all qualified astronomers affiliated with a U.S. institution, and complements the Astrophysics Data Analysis Program (ADAP) under the NASA Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) solicitation. Proposals are due July 8, 2022. Learn more here.
At a press conference on SOFIA at the Winter 2021 meeting of the American Astronomical Association, Jessica Sutter, a postdoctoral researcher at USRA, spoke on “A Map of the Molecular Ring and Arms of a Spiral Galaxy.” That talk sparked the interest of Ethan Siegel, a science communicator and an astrophysicist who writes for Forbes, and for his blog, “Starts With A Bang.” His interview with Jessica, which was published on March 19, 2022, is an interesting and informative podcast demonstrating the uniqueness of SOFIA and its capabilities in the far infrared. It’s an excellent validation of SOFIA science. Listen to the podcast here.
We are pleased to announce that the HAWC+ data processing and calibration pipeline is now available to the public for all HAWC+ modes. Users may run the pipeline to better understand the different calibration steps, to customize their own data reductions (e.g. spatial binning), or to reprocess older archival data which may benefit from recent pipeline improvements.
The pipeline software is available through SOFIA's pipeline GitHub repository. A detailed description of the data reduction process and pipeline capabilities is available in the pipeline user manual which can be found on our Data Pipelines web page.
We have created new SOFIA data analysis “cookbooks” for EXES. This includes a jupyter notebook for EXES data inspection, and another for telluric correction with models from the Planetary Spectrum Generator. We have also added a new GREAT cookbook for data inspection and visualization in python. The cookbooks have all been reformatted and are now hosted on a new readthedocs site. We will continue to develop and expand these cookbooks. More information here.
The current and future science of SOFIA is exciting and compelling, but the Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 report (Astro2020 Decadal report) placed SOFIA into a static box that misses the tremendous scientific growth SOFIA has experienced over the past two years. Because SOFIA is on an inflection point in science return, it is appropriate for SOFIA to continue on its path for Senior Review.
The Astro2020 Decadal report recognizes the importance of the far-infrared (far-IR) wavelength range for studies in astrophysics. The next generation Great Observatories program, with its associated technology and mission architecture maturation plan, includes an IR/far-IR observatory. A new probe line offers an opportunity to compete for a far-IR probe that would be operational in the early 2030s. For the next decade, SOFIA will continue to be the only far-IR observatory that provides access to the astronomical community to advance exploration. SOFIA will prepare the astronomical community both scientifically and technologically for this ambitious future. It advances the science by directly addressing one-third of the Astro2020 Decadal report science priorities. Moreover, the community can exploit the opportunity SOFIA provides to train the next generation of astronomers and instrument builders who will define, develop, and use the future far-IR space observatories described in the Astro2020 Decadal report.
SOFIA’s efficiency and science productivity are on the right trajectory for SOFIA to achieve its full scientific potential. All the recommendations from the Flagship Mission Review (NASA’s 2019 review of SOFIA) have been addressed. SOFIA is now delivering on NASA’s investment with scientific payoff. There has been an outpouring of amazing science results from SOFIA ranging from the Earth to high-redshift galaxies.
- SOFIA has doubled its annual science publication rate over the past three years.
- NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee (APAC) applauded recent efforts to improve the scientific productivity of SOFIA in their letter for the March 2021 meeting.
- SOFIA’s observing time is increasing over time. In our Cycle 10 Call for Proposals, to be executed from October 2022 to September 2023, the number of research hours increases by 50% from Cycle 7 and the number of Southern Hemisphere flights doubles.
- Our SOFIA User community of investigators and authors is 2,138 strong and growing.
- Virtual science workshops and other community engagement activities have increased our wider SOFIA community size by 42% this past year alone.
- SOFIA has increased grant support for observers and archival users to better support users.
- Cycle 10 introduces new opportunities for time domain studies in the far-IR.
Contributing to multi-messenger science, SOFIA offers joint observing programs with GBT and IRTF, pilot programs with HST, and joint science talks and conferences with ALMA. We have several Cycle 9 programs that directly support JWST Cycle 1 observations and expect more in Cycle 10. SOFIA provides critical far-IR observations of targets under investigation with JWST. Additionally, SOFIA can offer mid-IR spectroscopic opportunities for select JWST targets with higher spectral resolving power, as well as measurements of bright sources that saturate JWST’s instruments. This coming year, SOFIA maintains our energetic community engagement activities, adding a virtual far-IR school for students and early career scientists and an in-person meeting.
Preparations are in an advanced stage to present SOFIA to the 2022 Senior Review panel, which evaluates the progress of operating missions since their last review, their plans for the future, and their scientific merit with respect to NASA and Astro2020 Decadal report priorities. SOFIA is the first human crewed observatory to enter Senior Review. While the human crewed aspect may limit total hours that science observations can be conducted, there are advantages to this suborbital platform. Like HST, SOFIA can repair and update its instruments technologically but does so more cost effectively and with a faster delivery schedule. SOFIA’s instrument roadmap outlines a science-driven plan for new instruments that can increase scientific performance by a factor of ten, opening up new science discovery space. Cost savings from efficiencies within SOFIA are returned to the community to support this important instrument development program.
Suborbital programs such as SOFIA are essential to further science and technology to be used in space missions. The balloon program, which is another suborbital portfolio, focuses on PI-driven far-IR observations with very limited science hours, no fully supported community guest observer calls, and small publication rates. However, far-IR technology developed in the innovative and experimental balloon platforms can be applied in a more capable instrument on SOFIA which has larger aperture, power, mass, and volume envelopes. SOFIA offers the only reliable and repeatable suborbital platform for guest observers and instrument maturation, supporting a scientifically diverse opportunity for the astronomical community. Moreover, SOFIA is the only flagship mission capable of far-IR observations that can follow up on discoveries made with Herschel and (cold) Spitzer, both of which had limited lifetimes.
We are grateful for your letters of support (e.g., this letter from the IRSTIG), as we enter our final preparations for Senior Review. We are most delighted by your published papers which are pouring in steadily – keep them coming, every paper counts! Papers are the strongest way to show your support. Thanks.
Director of SOFIA Science Mission Operations
On October 1st, 2021, the Echelon-Cross- Echelle Spectrograph instrument onboard SOFIA (EXES) became a facility science instrument, joining FORCAST, HAWC+ and FIFI-LS. EXES has demonstrated its performance on SOFIA for many years as a PI-led instrument, has completed commissioning, and has a mature data reduction pipeline.The transition from a PI-led instrument to a facility science instrument was initiated with the goal of expanding EXES community to maximize the scientific potential and impact of the instrument.
We are pleased to announce that the FLITECAM pipeline is now available to the public. This new and improved pipeline will allow users to reprocess archival FLITECAM data and better understand FLITECAM’s science products. The pipeline software and its documentation are available through SOFIA's GitHub repository. Additional information, including user manuals and step-by-step tutorials for FLITECAM’s imaging and grism modes, can be found on our Data Pipelines web page.
SOFIA’s Instrument upgrade was a topic of interest to NPR and resulted in an interview request from the station. Dr. Margaret Meixner, Director, SOFIA Mission Operations, talked with NPR’s Brendan Byrne and the interview was aired on May 11, 2021.
Dr. Meixner's interview begins right after the 16- minute mark.