Cathy Weselby / Nicholas Veronico
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650.604.4789 / 650.604.4589 /

Beth Hagenauer
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
May 24, 2011
NASA Event to Showcase SOFIA Science, Education Projects
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) program will showcase its science and education efforts to journalists on June 8, 2011. The event will be held 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.
  • Michael Bicay, director of Science 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 must be submitted to Beth Hagenauer at or 661-276-7960/3449 by May 31, 2011.

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.

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:

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