Status Report

Astronomy from the Stratosphere: NASA’s SOFIA Mission

By SpaceRef Editor
March 6, 2013
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March 6: Dr. Dana Backman, SETI Institute and Santa Clara University, Free, Illustrated,

Non-technical Presentation, “Astronomy from the Stratosphere: NASA’s SOFIA Mission,”

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, 7 p.m.

POC: Andrew Fraknoi, email:

This presentation is part of the 13th Annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series. Why would NASA buy a used passenger airliner, cut a 10-foot-by-10-foot hole in the fuselage, add a roll-back door and install a 17-ton telescope inside? In his lecture, open to the public, Backman will introduce you to the engineering marvel and international scientific facility called SOFIA — the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. This remarkable airborne telescope began scientific research flights in 2010 and is already returning exciting discoveries about the birth of stars, interstellar chemistry, the atmospheres of giant planets, the environment around supermassive black holes and other branches of astronomy. Backman is the director of Education and Public Outreach for the SOFIA project at NASA Ames and an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University and the Stanford Continuing Studies Program.

Before joining the SOFIA team, he was professor of physics and astronomy at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. He is coauthor of three college-level astronomy textbooks and a frequent public speaker on astronomy and SOFIA. His research specialty is infrared astronomy (the study of the universe by collecting heat rays), exactly the kind of work that the SOFIA telescope is designed to do.

Foothill College is just off the El Monte Road exit from Freeway 280 in Los Altos. For directions and parking information, see: For a campus map, see: The lecture is co-sponsored by NASA Ames, The Foothill College Astronomy Program, The SETI Institute and The Astronomical Society of the Pacific. We expect large crowds, so please arrive a little bit early to find parking. Having exact change or bills for the $3 parking fee helps speed up the line. Past Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures are available in MP3 format at:

SpaceRef staff editor.