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  • NASA/DFRC Airborne Science Program
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  • Participating organizations
  • NASA Ames Research Center
  • SETI Institute
  • BAER Institute
  • Aerospace Corporation
  • SAIC
  • Utah State University
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of New Mexico Albuquerque

    NASA Ames Research Center, CA
    June 22-23, 2004



    SOFIA is the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy - a world class astronomical observatory for infrared and submm astronomy. It is an airborne observatory with projected flight hours as much as 960 hours/year (8 hour nights) for 20 years.

    The Upper Deck of the USRI operated B747 SOFIA may in the future facilitate experiments for serendipitous research during regular deployments, or in support of ongoing mid-IR and submm observations with the main telescope. Preferentially, this research will support NASA's and DLR's mission goals.

    The SOFIA Upper Deck may facilitate, for example, some of the same instruments as currently developed for the NSF/NCAR HIAPER aircraft, which unlike SOFIA has short dedicated missions with a focus on specific atmospheric processes.

    Serendipitous research on SOFIA should exploit the capability for long-term monitoring at altitude. In addition, short-term programs could benefit from the low extinction near the horizon (higher meteor rates), a better scintillation than on the ground (occultation observations), a much lower water vapor absorption (near-IR and mid-IR spectroscopy and photometry), a high cosmic ray background, and the unique ability to provide interactive experiments, for example for the collection of interplanetary dust particles and aerosols in the atmosphere.

    Unique Earth Science research is possible due to frequent transitions of the tropopause.

    There are also unique opportunities for education and public outreach, by facilitating student experiments, providing in-cabin video, and for sightings of transient phenomena on the sky (elves, aurora, fireballs).

    The SOFIA observatory is still being developed and a decistion to support such use of the Upper Deck is not expected for some time. At this time, better insight is needed into the scientific goals that can be addressed. The product of this workshop will be a whitepaper that should lay out the scientific rationale for future use of the Upper Deck as a Research Facility.

    FIRST WORKSHOP: JUNE 22-23, 2004

    In order to investigate the science questions that can be addressed in research experiments on SOFIA's Upper Deck, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., announces a workshop to be held on June 22-23, 2004. This will be a 2-day international meeting, with four half-day science sessions.


    All scientific questions that can be uniquely answered by SOFIA Upper Deck enabled research may be addressed. This may include (in no particular order):

  • the search for extrasolar planets
  • occulatation studies of minor bodies
  • the compositional diversity of comets and asteroids
  • the survival of organic matter in meteors and its astrobiological implications
  • transport properties and chemistry of the tropopause
  • the Global Water and Energy Cycle
  • the Carbon cycle
  • Atmospheric Chemistry
  • the satellite impact hazard
  • the effects of meteoric metals and ionization on the Earth's upper atmosphere
  • open questions in the generation and propagation of gravity waves
  • the nature of afterglow and persistent trains of meteor fireballs
  • factors that influence the generation of elves and sprites
  • the cause of temporal variations in the nature of aerosols and interplanetary dust particles
  • the unknown mid-IR signature of meteors
  • gravitational acceleration measurements
  • temporal variations in cosmic ray influx
  • Aerosols
  • Weather and Short-Term Climate Forecasting
  • Long-Term climate Change

  • Workshop participants may extend this list.

    The emphasis in the presentations should be on the science question to be addressed, it's link to NASA and DLR roadmap goals, how measurements from SOFIA's Upper Deck could help answer that question in a unique way, and what facilities and instrumentation are required. The primary product of this workshop will need to be a clear articulation of important science questions that upper deck instruments would address uniquely.

    Our goal is to shape this report by collecting brief 2-5 page contributed papers that are to be submitted as extended abstracts for the meeting and that will be published at this website.

    From this, an executive summary will be prepared that will also contain the ideas and topics put forward at the workshop. This summary report will be made available on this website for review and additional comments, before being presented to NASA HQ.

    We also welcome any experience with ongoing airborne research instrumentation programs that could benefit the future use of SOFIA's Upper Deck. To understand the science opportunities, insight needs to be provided into the constrains posed by the operation of the astronomical observatory, FAA requirements for safety, and future directions of airborne research.


    Registration is available on-line.

    The registration deadline for foreign nationals is May 15. Later contributions can not be accepted because of the time required to arrange access to NASA Ames Research Center. US citizens can register until June 10.

    Please submit only a brief (10-line) abstract at the time of registration for scheduling purposes, but follow up prior to June 15 with an extended abstract. An MSWord template is found here. Please send your extended abstract as a camera ready MSWord document or pdf file to the S.U.R.F. mailbox. You should receive an acknowledgement of its receipt.

    Future announcements for this meeting will not be mailed in hard copy but will be posted here. For further questions, please contact:

    Dr. Peter Jenniskens
    Chair Scientific Organizing Committee
    Tel.: 1-650-966-8117 (voice mail)
    Dr. Hansjuerg Jost
    Co-chair SOC for Earth Sciences
    Tel.: 1-650-604-0697 (voice mail)

    SOC members:

  • Prof. Mike Taylor, Utah State University
  • Dr. Ray Russell, The Aerospace Corporation
  • Dr. Tim Castellano, NASA Ames Research Center
  • Prof. Frans Rietmeijer, University of New Mexico Albuquerque
  • Prof. Hans Stenbaek-Nielsen, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Dr. Leonard Pfister, NASA Ames Research Center

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