Press Release

NASA Event To Showcase Sofia Science, Education Projects

By SpaceRef Editor
May 12, 2011
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PALMDALE, Calif. — The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) program will showcase its science and education efforts to journalists on June 8 at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.

SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft fitted with a 100-inch (2.5 meter) diameter telescope. It analyzes infrared light to study the formation of stars and planets; chemistry of interstellar gases; composition of comets, asteroids and planets; and supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. Infrared observations are optimal for studying low-temperature objects in space, such as the raw materials for star and planet formation, and for seeing through interstellar dust clouds that block light at visible wavelengths.

The observatory recently completed initial science flights with German and U.S. instruments. Several basic science flights will carry American and German teachers participating in the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program in the coming months.

To kick off the media event at 9:30 a.m. PDT, June 8, SOFIA Program
Manager Bob Meyer will present an overview of the program. Other
presenters include:

– Alois Himmes, SOFIA program manager, German Aerospace Center (DLR)
– David McBride, director of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.
– Steve Zornetzer, associate center director at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

A panel also will discuss scientific research conducted aboard the
observatory. The participants are:

– Pamela Marcum, SOFIA project scientist
– Terry Herter, principal investigator for the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST)
– Rolf Guesten, principal investigator for the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies spectrometer (GREAT)

Another panel will discuss the importance of SOFIA’s education outreach. The participants are:

– Erick Young, SOFIA science mission operations director
– Dana Backman, SOFIA education and outreach manager
– Dorte Mehlert, education and outreach manager for the German SOFIA Institute

Following the presentations, news media representatives will tour the SOFIA flying observatory and meet several of the teachers selected to work with scientists during the research flights.

The Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility is located at 30th Street East and Avenue P (Rancho Vista Boulevard) in Palmdale. Journalists must arrive by 9:15 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, June 8, for the event which will run from 9:30 a.m. – noon. Requests for event credentials should be submitted to Beth Hagenauer at or 661-276-7960/3449. The deadline for U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens is May 31. The deadline for foreign nationals is May 16.

U.S. citizens must provide full name, date and place of birth, media organization, the last six digits of their social security number and the number and issuing state of their driver’s license. In addition, foreign nationals must list their country of citizenship and visa or passport number with the country of issue and expiration date. Permanent resident aliens must provide their registration number and expiration date. The SOFIA observatory is a joint NASA and German Aerospace Center program. The program and aircraft are managed at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility. NASA’s Ames Research Center manages SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association and the German SOFIA Institute in Stuttgart, Germany.

For more information about SOFIA, visit:

For information about SOFIA’s science missions, visit: and

SpaceRef staff editor.