NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

SOFIA Cycle 7: An Opportunity to Prepare for JWST Science

News Feature July 13, 2018

Photograph of NASA's SOFIA 747SP aircraft soaring over Southern California's high desert.
With the large door over its 2.5-meter German-built telescope wide open, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy 747SP aircraft soars over Southern California's high desert. SOFIA makes astronomical observations between 39,000 and 45,000 feet altitude, typically flying 10 hours per flight. Credit: NASA/Jim Ross

The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) project has released two calls for proposals (CfP) for observing time in the Cycle 7 period open to qualified scientists in the international community. Proposals preparing for and enhancing early science with JWST are especially welcome. Proposals are due September 7, 2018. Details are available on the SOFIA website.

SOFIA can complement JWST science in many ways.

SOFIA provides infrared access to bright, nearby objects where JWST will saturate. SOFIA observations of bright galactic and nearby extragalactic sources can provide important templates for JWST studies of distant galaxies. In some cases, gravitational lensing enables SOFIA studies of distant galaxies.

SOFIA offers unprecedented high spectral resolution R ~ 100,000 or more over a wide range of wavelengths from 5 to ~620 microns with the EXES, GREAT, and HIRMES (available in 2019) instruments. This wavelength region contains a large number of essential atomic and molecular diagnostic lines, which can measure the dynamics of gas in planet-forming disks, jets and outflows from young stars, and other cool objects. Specifically, the 5-28 micron range overlaps with JWST/MIRI to resolve individual lines, identify new molecules, and provide a benchmark for interpretation of lower spectral resolution molecular, ice, and dust studies by JWST.

SOFIA offers long-term temporal monitoring of Solar System objects with mid/far-IR imaging and spectroscopy plus occultation measurements at visible wavelengths, including targets as close as 20 degrees from the Sun, which cannot be reached by JWST.

SOFIA extends beyond the JWST spectral range to far-infrared wavelengths: 28 to 215 microns with the HIRMES (2019) and HAWC+ instruments, with a significantly larger FOV than ALMA and similar angular resolution as Herschel PACS.