Target of Opportunity: Comet ISON

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) took off on a “target of opportunity” flight that included study of Comet ISON on Oct. 24, 2013. This was SOFIA's second opportunity to capture data on a comet, having previously studied Comet Hartley 2 in 2010. For the Comet ISON observations, the object was predicted to be very faint.

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FIFI-LS on its way to California

The Field-Imaging Far-Infrared Line Spectrometer (FIFI-LS) instrument was shipped from Germany on November 11th, 2013. After the instrument arrived at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility, Palmdale, Calif., several months of preparations began for its operation onboard SOFIA. The first science observing flights with FIFI-LS are currently scheduled for March 2014. Being a so-called 3-D spectrometer, FIFI-LS uses SOFIA’s valuable observing time in a quite efficient way by obtaining images and spectroscopic information simultaneously using a rather complicated mirror system (Fig. 2b).

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SOFIA Announces Cycle 2 Observing Program Selections

NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the SOFIA Science Center, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) have announced the selection of 51 investigations to study the universe using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). SOFIA, a joint program between NASA and the DLR, is set to begin its second full cycle of science flights from February through December 2014.

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Reuse, Recycle: SOFIA Obtains Spare Parts from Government Surplus 747s

By Nicholas A. Veronico

In today’s climate of ever-shrinking budgets and the demand to do more with less, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has become the beneficiary of two now-completed aircraft programs – the retirement of the 747 Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) and the 747 Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). Millions of dollars worth of parts used to support those programs have been, or will soon be transferred to NASA to keep SOFIA in the air for many years to come.

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Gordon Fullerton, SOFIA's First Pilot, Passes Away

Gordon Fullerton, test pilot, shuttle astronaut, and pilot-in-command for SOFIA's first test flight in 2007, passed away August 21 at age 76. SOFIA's Program Manager Eddie Zavala said, "It seemed as though Gordo flew everything and anything that he could. Many of our Dryden team members, myself included, knew Gordo well and had the privilege of working with him on numerous flight research projects."

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SOFIA Mission Manager’s Update

Eddie Zavala, NASA SOFIA Program Manager

Fly 6,900 miles each way, deploy a cadre of flight- and ground-crewmembers along with an international science team for three weeks, and during that time fly three nights per week, 10-hours per flight, while conducting world-class science. It’s a lot to imagine, and even greater to have accomplished it all.

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SOFIA Observations Reveal a Surprise in Massive Star Formation

Researchers using the airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have captured the most detailed mid-infrared images yet of a massive star condensing within a dense cocoon of dust and gas.

The star is G35.20-0.74, more commonly known as G35. It is one of the most massive known protostars and is located relatively close to Earth at a distance of 8,000 light years.

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Educator Teams Fly on NASA'S SOFIA Airborne Observatory

The first four Airborne Astronomy Ambassador (AAA) educators returned safely to Earth, landing in Palmdale, Calif. early in the morning Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, after completing their initial flight on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA.

That flight launched the AAA program’s first full year of operations, during which 26 educators from classrooms and science centers across the United States will fly on SOFIA as partners with scientists conducting astronomy research using the airborne observatory.

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USRA SOFIA Associate Director Helen Hall Recognized by Industry Group

Helen Hall, University Space Research Association (USRA) associate director for Program Management for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), was recently recognized by SPIE Women in Optics, the international society for optics and photonics, for inclusion in the organization’s 2013-2014 date planner.

SPIE’s Women in Optics group promotes personal and professional growth for women through community building, networking opportunities, and encouraging young women to choose careers in optical tecnology.

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Science Results Archive