Seven NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) and two district liaisons traveled to Palmdale for their SOFIA flight week experience. AAAs Caylin Ledterman and Justin Fournier, with Liaison Jessica Yett, from the Anaheim Union High School District; AAAs Sarah Arndt, Christine Hirst, and Lydia Jimenez from William S. Hart Union High School District; and AAAs Kirstin DeGeer and Jorge Hirmas, with Liaison Kellie Fleming, from Vista Unified District, completed Egress Training on September 18.
The SOFIA Instrument Lab and Mirror Coating Facility were toured before meeting with the Program Manage Eddie Zavala on September 20, leading up to the Mission Brief and flight that night.
The FORCAST instrument’s targets were planetary nebula NGC 7009, large star forming region Westerhout #51, star forming complex Cygnus-X, and variable star with protoplanetary disk MWC 758. Instrument specialists entertained questions offered insights to infrared imaging. Guest Observer Francisco Muller – Sanchez delighted the group as he gave a mini-seminar on his investigations of the simultaneous triggering of active galactic nuclei (AGN) in merging galaxies. Mission Directors as well as Telescope Operators, and Flight Facilitator Dana Backman, contributed to discussions throughout the night. Luck was with them, as the Northern Lights were visible during the northern most part of the flight path, a rare and beautiful visual treat. Upon landing at 4:30 am, the group, tired but jubilant, declared “success.”
The AAAs have administered a pre-test, and will be implementing the program curriculum in their classrooms. AAA – District Liaisons Jessica Yett and Kellie Fleming will coordinate resources and curriculum implementation.