The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a telescope that flies on a specially modified jet airliner. Cruising at 40,000 feet above sea level, SOFIA is above most of the atmospheric gases, especially water vapor, that inhibit astronomical observations from the ground. RPI postdoc Daniel Angerhausen and Physics professor Jon Morse will be using SOFIA to study the properties of exoplanets – planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy – with the long term goal of discovering whether any of them could be hosts for life. Click here for full story.
Angerhausen and Morse are the second RPI-led group to be awarded observing time on this prestigious facility. Doug Whittet and colleagues are using SOFIA to study the chemical composition of planetary matter at a much earlier phase, in the interstellar clouds and disks of material that will eventually coalesce to form new planetary systems around stars similar to (but much younger than) our Sun. Click here for full story.