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Educators selected to fly on NASA’s SOFIA

January 28, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

Twenty-six educators from the United States - including two women from Pocahontas County - have been selected for research flights aboard SOFIA, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

As participants in the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program, the educators will partner with professional astronomers using SOFIA for scientific observations in 2012 and 2013.

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner equipped with a 100-inch diameter telescope. The observatory enables the analysis of 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.

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"The unique design of SOFIA gives educators hands-on experience with world-class astronomical research," said John Gagosian, SOFIA program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Working with astronomers, educators participate in a research project from beginning to end and integrate that unique perspective with classroom lessons and public outreach programs."

SOFIA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program is a yearly professional development opportunity extended to educators through a competitive, peer-reviewed process. This year's educators are:

Sarah Scoles of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and Anne Smith of Green Bank Middle School in Green Bank

Melvin Gorman and Gordon Serkis, of Chinle Junior High School in Chinle, Ariz.

Ira Harden and Vincente Washington, of City Honors College Preparatory Charter School in Inglewood, Calif.

Clifford Gerstman and Susan Groff, of Middle College High School in Santa Ana, Calif.

Mike Cimino of Heritage Middle School and John Clark of Deltona High School in Deltona, Fla.

Randi Brennon of Hawaii Academy of Arts & Sciences in Pahoa, Hawaii, and James Johnson of Children's Center for Treatment & Education in Custer City, Penn.

Jo Dodds of Twin Falls Sr. High School in Twin Falls, Idaho, and Ralph Peterson of North Gem High School in Bancroft, Idaho

Jennifer Carter and Claudett M. Edie of Rowan County Senior High School in Morehead, Ky.

Chelen Johnson of Breck School, Golden Valley, Minn., and Constance Gartner of Wisconsin School for the Deaf of Delavan, Wisc.

Matt Oates of Dilworth STEM Academy in Sparks, Nev., and Dan Ruby of Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center in Reno, Nev.

Ryan Munkwitz and John Walsh of Southampton Intermediate and High School in Southampton, N.Y.

Adriana Alvarez and Mariela Aguirre of Alicia R. Chacon International School in El Paso, Texas

David V. Black of Walden School of Liberal Arts in Provo, Utah, and Carolyn Bushman of Wendover Jr./Sr. High School in Wendover, Utah

"These educators submitted applications describing how they plan to take what they learn from SOFIA back to their classrooms and communities to help promote increased literacy in science, technology, engineering and math," said astronomer Dana Backman, manager of SOFIA's education and public outreach programs. "Selection for this unique opportunity is truly an honor for the educators, as well as for their local schools and science centers."

SOFIA is a joint program between NASA and the German Aerospace Center. The SOFIA program is managed at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., where the aircraft is based. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages SOFIA science and mission operations in concert with the Universities Space Research Association in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute in Stuttgart, Germany. SOFIA's education and public outreach programs are managed by the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in San Francisco.

More information about SOFIA is available at or



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