INDEPENDENT NEWS

SOFIA returns to Christchurch’s night skies

Published: Thu 7 Jun 2018 07:30 PM
SOFIA returns to Christchurch’s night skies
07 June 2018
NASA’s largest flying astronomical observatory has returned to Christchurch to continue exploring the mysteries of outer space.
SOFIA, a modified Boeing 747SP that carries a 38,000 pound, 100-inch diameter infrared telescope in her tail section, is one of NASA’s premier astrophysics programs.
Armed with a high-tech arsenal of instruments, SOFIA navigates the night skies at around 1,000 kilometers per hour, capturing images of planets, asteroids and outer space.
ChristchurchNZ chief executive Joanna Norris says Christchurch’s excellent facilities, a world class city, dry skies and perfect stellar positioning make it an ideal leaping off point to explore outer space
“Christchurch currently has all the componentry to support a future space industry. Supporting programs like these are reflective of our city’s spirit of exploration,” Ms Norris says.
“This includes world class hi tech component manufacturers and tech companies providing solutions and parts for global aerospace companies, to education providers and schools with space programmes that visit NASA facilities, through to higher level training of rocket guidance systems, along with regulatory bodies that monitor airspace across NZ and other parts of the world.”
“Christchurch also plays a unique and important role in connecting Antarctica research with outer space as one only five global Antarctica gateways and home to the inaugural space challenge,” Ms Norris says.
Christchurch has become the temporary home for 120 NASA staff who will take part in 25 overnight flights over the next seven weeks, injecting more than $5 million into the local economy in accommodation and related costs.
They’ll be looking at a range of celestial objects best observed from the Southern Hemisphere, including our neighbouring galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud and the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy. Researchers plan to chase down the shadow cast by Saturn’s largest moon Titan when it passes in front of a distant star in an eclipse-like event called an occultation.
Each flight launches in the evening and will operate for roughly 10 hours. The crew size varies, depending on the science and complexity of the mission.
This is the first time that SOFIA’s (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) newest instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus (HAWC+), which can study celestial magnetic fields, will be used in the Southern Hemisphere.
This is the seventh year SOFIA has operated its winter star-gazing missions out of Christchurch, based at the National Science Foundation's US Antarctic Program facility at Christchurch International Airport.
ENDS
Notes to editors:
Useful links:
SOFIA Science Center website:
www.sofia.usra.edu
Web feature:
SOFIA to Study Southern Skies in New Zealand
https://www.sofia.usra.edu/public/news-updates/sofia-study-southern-skies-new-zealand
(note that the correct number of flights is 25 – not 19)
Published science that has been done from Christchurch:
https://www.sofia.usra.edu/public/news-updates/resources-journalists/new-zealand-science-summaries

Next in Business, Science, and Tech

An end to unnecessary secondary tax
By: New Zealand Government
Boeing 737 Max Aircraft Operations Temporarily Suspended
By: Civil Aviation Authority
Crime-busting software wins top science prize
By: PM's Science Prizes
High Court delivers decision on Cullen Group case
By: Inland Revenue Department
Plea for EQC rethink as insurers withdraw from market
By: RNZ
New Zealand rated third best in OECD for working women
By: RNZ
NZ First Applauds Changes to Remove Burden of Seconary Tax
By: New Zealand First Party
Anti-CGT assault masks real support for increasing fairness
By: Equality Network
NZ suspends Boeing 737 MAX – Expert Reaction
By: Science Media Centre
PM’s top science prize goes to DNA crime scene software
By: New Zealand Government
Urgency sparks action for PMs Science Communication winner
By: PM's Science Prizes
Winning researcher brings hope for those with gut issues
By: PM's Science Prizes
Teacher bases winning ways on developing curious minds
By: PM's Science Prizes
Young physicist third student to become Future Scientist
By: PM's Science Prizes
Eric Watson's Cullen Group avoided $51m in tax: High Court
By: RNZ
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILEWe're in BETA! Send Feedback © Scoop Media