A total of 39 teachers from across the country were chosen for the missions that will take place in 2017 and 2018. The teachers will be onboard a Boeing 747 modified by NASA to become the world’s largest airborne observatory, with an effective telescope diameter of 2.5 meters (100 inches). Flying at altitudes between 39,000 to 45,000 feet, above more than 99% of the water vapor in the atmosphere, SOFIA makes it possible to obtain astronomical data that are impossible to obtain from telescopes on the ground.
“The Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program gives science teachers a unique opportunity to witness research with all the blood, sweat, and tears as it really happens,” said AAA Principal Investigator Dr. Dana Backman. “These teachers can then convey to their students the wide range of professional expertise needed to support that research, from engineering to technology to mathematics, and perhaps see themselves someday in one of those roles.”
The Hart District teachers participating on the flights are:
- Sarah Arndt, Saugus
- Ravinder Athwal, Bowman
- Michael Crawford, Canyon
- Tom Gavin, West Ranch
- Lydia Gonzalez-Jimenez, Canyon
- Nick Gravel, Hart
- Christine Hirst, West Ranch
- Julie Huffman, Hart District Science Teacher on Special Assignment and SOFIA Liaison
- Judy Jennings, Hart
- Maya Loch, Valencia
- Christopher Spann, Valencia
- Matt Stanich, West Ranch
The teachers will stay for a week at the NASA research facility in Palmdale, California, from which they will fly on two missions that will last 10-12 hours each. They will have an opportunity to interact with science teachers from all over the world as well as experts from NASA and the SETI Institute.
Six of the Hart District teachers will participate in the Fall of 2017, with the remaining six participating in the Fall of 2018.
*Photo by Wayne Huffman