Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lunar and Planetary Institute


Educators Selected to Fly on SOFIA Airborne Observatory

January 26, 2012
Source:  NASA

From left, Terry Herter, principal investigator of FORCAST, and SOFIA staff scientist James De Buizer discuss an infrared image with Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Theresa Paulsen and Marita Beard. Credit: NASA/SOFIA/N. Veronico.Twenty-six educators from the United States have been selected for research flights onboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). As participants in the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program, the educators will partner with professional astronomers using SOFIA for scientific observations in 2012 and 2013.

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner equipped with a 100-inch (2.5-meter) diameter telescope. The observatory enables the analysis of 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.

“The unique design of SOFIA gives educators hands-on experience with world-class astronomical research,” said John Gagosian, SOFIA program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Working with astronomers, educators participate in a research project from beginning to end and integrate that unique perspective with classroom lessons and public outreach programs.”

SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program is a yearly professional development opportunity extended to educators through a competitive, peer-reviewed process. This year’s educators are:

“These educators submitted applications describing how they plan to take what they learn from SOFIA back to their classrooms and communities to help promote increased literacy in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said astronomer Dana Backman, manager of SOFIA’s education and public outreach programs. “Selection for this unique opportunity is truly an honor for the educators, as well as for their local schools and science centers.”

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and is based and managed at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.

For more information, visit

SOFIA:  Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy

SOFIA Science Center



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