Omaha Burke High School teachers Judi Little and LeeAnn Vaughan are among 24 educators who have been selected to fly on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy aircraft, carrying the world’s largest airborne telescope.
Their flights are set to take place May 5th-10th as part of the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program.
SOFIA is an extensively modified Boeing 747SP jetliner equipped with a 100-inch (2.5 meter) diameter telescope. The observatory flies from its home base in Palmdale, California, and the educators aboard work side-by-side with NASA’s own astronomer teams. The educators witness all stages of scientific research from preparations and observations to data analysis and publication. The observatory enables the analysis of infrared light to study the formation of stars and planets, the chemistry of interstellar gases and the composition of comets, asteroids and planets.
Typically, educators make two flights in the NASA aircraft, then implement classroom lessons and public outreach programs based on their experiences.
SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program began in 2010. During its brief history, the program has already flown 26 educators from 14 states on science flights.