WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA is inviting journalists to tour and learn more about the world's largest airborne astronomical observatory on Thursday, Sept. 22, from 12 to 2 p.m. EDT at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft fitted with a 100 inch (2.5 meter) diameter telescope, is making a rare appearance on the East Coast after a deployment to Germany. Media will hear from NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, Leland Melvin, former astronaut and NASA associate administrator for Education, and Paul Hertz, NASA SOFIA program scientist, from 12 to 12:30 p.m. before touring the aircraft.
Hundreds of children from military families also will be on-site to tour the aircraft, visit NASA exhibits, and speak with scientists. SOFIA's Washington-area stopover is part of the White House's "Joining Forces" initiative to give service members and their families opportunities they have earned. NASA works to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and math education and careers among youth.
To attend, journalists must contact Trent Perrotto at [email protected] or 202-358-0321 by 12 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Sept. 21, for logistics. To allow time for check-in and transportation to the aircraft hangar, news media representatives will need to arrive at the base at 11 a.m.
SOFIA analyzes infrared light to study the formation of stars and planets; chemistry of interstellar gases; composition of comets, asteroids and planets; and supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. Infrared observations are optimal for studying low-temperature objects in space such as the raw materials for star and planet formation and for seeing through interstellar dust clouds that block light at visible wavelengths.
SOFIA is a joint program between NASA and DLR in Bonn, Germany. The SOFIA program is managed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The aircraft is based at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association in Columbia, Md., and Deutsches SOFIA Institut in Stuttgart, Germany.
For more information about SOFIA, visit: