SOFIA set to begin cycle two astronomy observations

Nov 06, 2013
The SOFIA flying observatory deployed to Christchurch, New Zealand, in July 2013 for an opportunity to study the skies above the Southern Hemisphere. Credit: NASA / Carla Thomas

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.

The SOFIA observatory is a substantially modified 747SP aircraft that carries a telescope with an effective diameter of 100 inches (2.5 meters) to altitudes above 39,000 feet (12 km), beyond the obscuring layer of water vapor in Earth's atmosphere.

"More than 1,000 hours of observing time were requested, three times the amount available, evidence of SOFIA's desirability to astronomers," said SOFIA Science Missions Operations Director Erick Young in announcing the awards of observing time. "The approved projects make good use of the observatory's capabilities to study objects ranging from Earth's solar system neighbors to galaxies hundreds of millions of light years away."

As of Nov. 5, the SOFIA has conducted 23 of 30 planned Cycle 1 science flights, including nine flights during a Southern Hemisphere deployment to New Zealand from its base at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.

The newly announced observing period, known as Cycle 2, contains 47 science flights grouped into multi-week observing campaigns spread through an 11-month span. The Cycle 2 science flights include approximately 350 research flight hours, about 200 hours of which have been awarded to guest investigators whose proposals to do research using SOFIA were evaluated by either a U.S. or a German-chartered peer review panel.

Astronomers aboard the SOFIA flying observatory pore over data gathered by the GREAT spectrometer while on a flight from Christchurch, New Zealand, during the program's first deployment to the Southern Hemisphere. Credit: NASA / Carla Thomas

In addition to the science flights planned for Cycle 2, the SOFIA program will undertake commissioning observations needed to make two more of the observatory's seven first-generation scientific instruments ready for use by guest investigators. Those instruments, the EXES (Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph), a high-resolution mid-infrared spectrograph, and the FIFI LS (Field Imaging Far-Infrared Line Spectrometer), will be available to researchers on a limited basis.

"In the past year, SOFIA has become a first-class asset to the world scientific community," said Pam Marcum, NASA SOFIA Project Scientist. "This SOFIA Cycle 2 announcement marks an important step in our progress toward routine operations. Infrared studies from these observations will enhance our knowledge of the life cycles of stars, how planets form, the chemistry of the interstellar medium, and much more."

SOFIA set to begin cycle 2 astronomy observations
Jurgen Stutzki, deputy principal investigator for the GREAT spectrometer, was aboard the SOFIA flying observatory for a flight to study the universe during the 2013 deployment to the Southern Hemisphere. Credit: NASA / Carla Thomas

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The aircraft is based at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. NASA Dryden Flight Research Center manages the program. NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.

Explore further: Deep space 'snowball' nears close shave with Mars

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

SOFIA to embark on new cycle of science observations

Aug 31, 2012

(Phys.org)—The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, a joint program between NASA and the German Aerospace Center DLR, is set to begin its first full cycle of science flights starting ...

SOFIA observatory on first overseas deployment

Sep 22, 2011

On Sept. 16, at 10:10 a.m. local time, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, lifted off from its base at Palmdale, Calif., flying east en route to Cologne, Germany, for its first international ...

GREAT spectrometer readied for flight on SOFIA

Mar 31, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists recently completed a series of nighttime, ground-based testing of the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, or GREAT, spectrometer in preparation for a series ...

Space image: Through the looking glass

Jun 15, 2011

The NASA logo on Bldg. 703 at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., is reflected in the 2.5-meter primary mirror of the SOFIA observatory's telescope.

Recommended for you

Hot explosions on the cool sun

1 hour ago

(Phys.org) —The Sun is more spirited than previously thought. Apart from the solar eruptions, huge bursts of particles and radiation from the outer atmosphere of our star, also the cooler layer right below ...

Europe secures new generation of weather satellites

1 hour ago

Contracts were signed today to build three pairs of MetOp Second Generation satellites, ensuring the continuity of essential information for global weather forecasting and climate monitoring for decades to ...

Comet Siding Spring whizzes past Mars (Update)

14 hours ago

A comet the size of a small mountain and about as solid as a pile of talcum powder whizzed past Mars on Sunday, dazzling space enthusiasts with the once-in-a-million-years encounter.

User comments : 0