Twelve science teachers from the William S. Hart Union High School District have been chosen to participate in NASA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program called SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.
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
“Our Hart District teachers are over-the-moon excited and proud to be going on SOFIA,” said Julie Huffman, Science Teacher on Special Assignment with the Hart District. “Working with NASA scientists to see far out into our universe and collect evidence is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we can’t wait to bring back to our students and community.”
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.