Science and Exploration

SOFIA’s New Instrument

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
January 3, 2017
Filed under , ,
SOFIA’s New Instrument
High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-plus (HAWC+) Image

This is the first polarization image from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy’s new infrared camera and polarimeter, known as the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-plus (HAWC+).
Polarimeters measure the alignment of incoming light waves, enabling HAWC+ to map magnetic fields in star forming regions.

This image shows how dust grains are aligned in the W3 star-forming region, a giant molecular cloud in the constellation Cassiopeia approximately 6,200 light years from Earth. Researchers are now comparing data from these observations with models that predict how stars form.

HAWC+ is the only currently operating astronomical camera that makes images using far-infrared light (from 40 to 300 microns), allowing studies of the low-temperature, early states of star and planet formation. More observations with this instrument are currently underway.

For more information on HAWC+, visit:

For more information on SOFIA, visit:

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.