The NASA SOFIA Mission: Our Infrared Window of the Universe
From the days of the earliest civilizations we have studied the vast cosmos through just a tiny window of the electromagnetic spectrum that we call visible light. It is remarkable how much we have learned about the origin and evolution of our Universe through this small window. However, during the 20th century, we began obtaining a more complete picture of the Universe by viewing the cosmos beyond the visible window with instruments sensitive to radio, infrared, ultraviolet, and other radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. The infrared portion of the spectrum is particularly broad and is important for our study of the Universe because of the ability of infrared light to penetrate dense regions of dust where new celestial objects form and for detecting the plethora of objects too cool in temperature to emit visible radiation. Today, NASA continues to shape our understanding of our Universe by capturing the cosmos at infrared wavelengths with its flying observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy or SOFIA. SOFIA builds upon the legacies of previous infrared missions like the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Herschel Space Telescope and is the only mission providing far-infrared data to the worldwide astronomical community for the next 20 years. In this talk, I will give an overview of infrared astronomy and the NASA SOFIA mission, including the observatory platform and the science instruments. Then will highlight a few of my favorite SOFIA discoveries and future priorities for the mission.
Dr. Trinh is an infrared astronomer with the NASA/DLR Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy or SOFIA. He is a current and active SOFIA mission crew member and has flown over 75 flight missions to date. He was born and raised right here in Orange, is a graduate of El Modena High School, and attended UC Berkeley as a double major in physics and astrophysics. After graduating from Berkeley, he was awarded the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship by the National Science Foundation and decided to take it to the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Sydney to complete his doctoral studies. In Sydney, working in collaboration with Australian Astronomical Observatory, he focused on adapting a variety of photonic technologies originally developed for the telecomm industry for use in new astronomical instrumentation. After completing his PhD, he joined the faculty of the College of Charleston in South Carolina before taking his experience in infrared astronomy and instrumentation to the NASA SOFIA program. He may never get to space, but he is extremely thankful that the NASA SOFIA mission has given him the opportunity to be mistaken for an astronaut on numerous occasions.
"What's Up?" in this month will be presented by John Garrett from TVA
Pre-meeting Slide Show (~2 MB)
Club Announcements (~2 MB)