In mid-May four German educator participated in a SOFIA research flight: Till Credner (Progymnasium Rosenfeld, Baden-Württemberg), Matthias Hünsch (Wichern-Schule, Hamburg), Andreas Lauer (Gymnasium Holzkirchen, Bayern) und Manuel Vogel (Gymnasium Spaichingen, Baden-Württemberg) took off on board SOFIA at 8:03 pm from Palmdale in California to experience how the close cooperation of US American and German engineers and scientists allows modern research at altitude up to about 43,000 feet (13 km). Due to the time shift between Germany and California the students could track their respective teacher‘s flight in the morning from school on https://de.flightaware.com/live/flight/NASA747.
Already, months before their flight, each educator submitted a proposal to fly on SOFIA that was based on a concept for school lessons that deal with the airborne infrared observatory. In April they all met with DSI staff in Stuttgart to learn more about their mission. Also, Helmut Wiesemeyer from the upGREAT team from Max-Planck-Institute for radio astronomy in Bonn joined the meeting to explain the operation of the science instrument that was to be mounted on the telescope during their flights. The educators met Helmut Wiesemeyer again during their flight. “It was just great J that the scientists from the upGREAT team supplied us with so much information. Hence we could follow the data we saw on the screens of the EPO consoles that are installed especially for us teachers”, summarized Andreas Lauer.
The educators arrived in Palmdale (California) the weekend before their flights; already on Monday they experienced a tour through SOFIA itself and the laboratories in the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) facility at which SOFIA is based. Two hours before take-off, Mission Director Randy Grashuis welcomed the educators and introduced them to the whole mission team. Manuel Vogel was fascinated by the mission briefing, since he mainly wants to explain to his students the advantages of SOFIA over a ground based – observatory: “I want them to learn why water vapor prevents the infrared radiation from reaching the earth’s surface. During the mission briefing I got so much detailed information relevant to our flight. That shows how important that aspect if for infrared astronomy”, Vogel comments.
After the final safety briefing on board SOFIA they took off to observe objects like our extragalactic neighbor the Andromeda galaxy (M31) as well as the Whirlpool galaxy (M51). Also, galaxy M82 that experienced a supernova explosion in 2014 was investigated with upGREAT. Till Credner, who is an enthusiastic amateur astro-photographer (http://www.allthesky.com), took a time-lapse video during the flight: ”This recording was done by a camera mounted on a cabin window of the SOFIA aircraft. It demonstrates the disturbing motion of the aircraft that the telescopes stabilization system has to counteract to guarantee sufficient quality of the science data”, he explains.
The observations of M31 was the most fascinating part of their flight. “The scientists can derive information about the velocities and temperatures of the different chemical elements in the galaxy. With that data they are able to determine the heating and cooling processes in the interstellar medium”, Mathias Hünsch explained. He also cooperates with the Hamburg Observatory and plans to forward all his experiences and his personal excitement to the students and pupils that attend the many workshops during the so called “Astro – Werkstatt”.
Back in Germany it was about 3 pm when the educators’ students followed SOFIA approaching Palmdale on https://de.flightaware.com/live/flight/NASA747. A few moments later four tired but excited German educators filled with new ideas and experiences left this unique aircraft. The director of the Progymnasiums Rosenfeld, Christian Breithaupt, was excited, and cannot wait for Till Credner to be back: “That’s what we dreamt of for a long time. Now we can even better inspire our students for natural and engineering subjects.”
1 - EPO – Educational and Public Outreach
- StratoTill special Homepage of the "Sternenparks Schwäbische Alb" on Till Credner's flight
- Blog of the Students Science Center South - Württemberg on the SOFIA flight of Manuel Vogel and Till Credner
video of Till Credner.
- Exposure time:1,6s each; Interval timr: 2s; number of photos: 542;
resulting in a total of 1084 s or 18 min, Time: 11:45 MEZ to 12:03 MEZ
- taken on the long leg across Utah from East to West - looking south,
more or less the same directtion as the SOFIA telescope
- Flightplan of 17. Mai
- Flightplan of 18. Mai
Information about the educators:
GREAT, der „German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies“, wurde durch ein Konsortium deutscher Forschungsinstitute (Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie Bonn und KOSMA/Universität zu Köln, in Zusammenarbeit mit dem DLR-Institut für Planetenforschung) entwickelt und gebaut. Projektleiter für GREAT (PI) ist Rolf Güsten (MPIfR); als stellvertretende Projektleiter (Co-Is) sind Jürgen Stutzki (Univ. Köln) und Heinz-Wilhelm Hübers (DLR, Berlin-Adlershof) beteiligt. Die Entwicklung des Instruments ist finanziert mit Mitteln der beteiligten Institute, der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft und des DLR.
- Dörte Mehlert, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel.:0711 - 685-69632