Onboard NASA’s Flying Observatory – Part Two

By: Rich DeMuro
Feb. 22, 2013

When it comes to studying the reaches of the galaxies, NASA takes the lead. Using some of the most powerful tools available, NASA scientist gain insights into the formation of stars in space. Now, they’re sharing a rare opportunity for teachers from across the country to be a part of their learning mission.

SOFIA, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is NASA’s flying observatory. A very specialized Boeing 747 plane houses a high-powered infrared telescope and flies above the moisture barrier to gather data from space.

Recently, the Tech Report was invited to come along for a mission and speak to the teachers onboard about their experiences.

“[The] idea was to give these classroom educators a real experience on how science is actually done,” said Dana Backman, manager of SOFIA’s education and public outreach program.

Using SOFIA, NASA scientist collect infrared images of our solar system and stars.

“Infrared telescope is able to concentrate on things cooler than stars like stars that are forming planets that are forming and so on,” said Backman.

That means more insight into the formation of our universe.

Onboard an eight-hour mission flight above the Pacific, teachers gathered data to use in personalized experiments for their students.

“The students will be extremely excited about it to know more about what goes on in the universe,” said Ira Harden, a chemistry and physics teacher from City Honors College Preparatory in Inglewood, Calif.

Famous among his students for his science rap videos, Harden’s not new to experimental learning methods.

“The students will be extremely excited about it to know more about what goes on in the universe,” said Harden.

Connie Gartner, a teacher for the Wisconsin school for the deaf, was also on the flight. For her, the chance to be involved was just another way to break barriers that challenge her students’ learning.

“I really hope that through my participation in the Sofia program we are able to generate a lot of enthusiasm for students,” said Gartner. “…they are an underrepresented group in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) areas.”

Watch Part One of my story aboard SOFIA.

Read more about my experience aboard SOFIA.

2 comments

  • Larry Gerber

    Our son Bryan is ground support for SOFIA. He is very excited to be part of NASA. He will be visiting his old Jr. High here in Westminster, CA to help incourage young people to advance their studies in aerospace.

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