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White House.gov Press Office Feed

Friday, April 20, 2012

NASA SELECTS SCIENCE INSTRUMENT UPGRADE FOR FLYING OBSERVATORY


WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected a science instrument upgrade to the
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) airborne
observatory. The instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband
Camera (HAWC), will provide a sensitive, versatile and reliable
imaging capability to the SOFIA user community. The upgrade involves
two proposals that will allow the observatory to measure the
structure and strength of magnetic fields in diverse objects
throughout the universe, such as star-forming clouds and galaxies.
This will help astronomers better understand how stars, planets and
galaxies form and evolve.

SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that carries a
telescope with a 100-inch (2.5-meter) diameter reflecting mirror that
conducts astronomy research not possible with ground-based
telescopes. By operating in the stratosphere at altitudes up to
45,000 feet, SOFIA can make observations above the water vapor in
Earth's lower atmosphere.

"SOFIA has the ability to become a world-class airborne observatory
that complements the Hubble, Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes,"
said John Grunsfeld, NASA's Science Mission Directorate associate
administrator. "This upgrade will greatly broaden SOFIA's
capabilities."

Last August, the agency released an Announcement of Opportunity for
SOFIA second-generation instrument investigations and received 11
proposals. The selected proposals were judged to have the best
science value and feasible development plans.

The selected proposals are:

-- The High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera Polarization
(HAWC-Pol), Charles Dowell, principal investigator, NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. This investigation upgrades
the HAWC instrument to include the capability to make polarimetric
observations at far-infrared wavelengths. The investigation's main
goals are to measure the magnetic field in the interstellar medium,
star forming regions and the center of the Milky Way.

-- HAWC++, Johannes Staguhn, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. This
investigation will provide a sensitive, large-format detector array
to the HAWC-Pol investigation, increasing its observing efficiency
and providing a broader range of targets.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center and
is based and managed at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in
Palmdale, Calif. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field,
Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in
cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association,
headquartered in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute at the
University of Stuttgart.