SLAS Regular Meeting
Friday, January 21, 2011
SOFIA - NASA's New Flying Observatory
Professor Bruce Wilking of the University of Missouri - Saint Louis
In addition to ground-based observatories and orbiting space telescopes, astronomers
can now study the universe using an airborne facility: the new NASA flying observatory
SOFIA. SOFIA features a telescope system built into a highly modified Boeing 747 jet aircraft.
Cruising at 40,000 feet or more, the aircraft flies above much of the atmosphere and
most of the water vapor. That allows the 100 inch-wide infrared telescope to acquire images
and data that surpass the best efforts of ground-based instruments of much larger size. Dr.
Wilking will talk about the capabilities of the SOFIA facility, as well as about some of the
astronomical objects that it was designed to study.
Dr. Wilking is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University
of Missouri - Saint Louis. His research interests include star formation and also the study
of very small sub-stars called brown dwarfs. He has participated in proposals for telescope
observing time at a number of facilities, including the Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna
Key, Hawaii, the NRAO 12-meter telescope, and the Hubble Space Telescope.