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"Astronomy from the Stratosphere: NASA's SOFIA Mission" Lecture

Wednesday, March 06, 2013
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Event Type:
Lori Thomas
Location Details:
Foothill College Smithwick Theatre, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022

As part of the 13th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, infrared astronomer Dana Backman, Ph.D., of the SETI Institute, will discuss Astronomy from the Stratosphere: NASA's SOFIA Mission, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, March 6, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

Why would NASA buy a used passenger airliner, cut a 10' x 10' hole in the fuselage, add a roll-back door, and install a 17-ton telescope inside? In his lecture, Dr. Backman will introduce you to the engineering marvel and international scientific facility called SOFIA -- the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. This remarkable airborne telescope began scientific research flights in 2010 and is already returning exciting discoveries about the birth of stars, interstellar chemistry, the atmospheres of giant planets, the environment around supermassive black holes, and other branches of astronomy.

Dana Backman is the director of Education & Public Outreach for the SOFIA project at NASA’s Ames Research Center and an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University and the Stanford Continuing Studies Program. Before joining the SOFIA team, he was professor of physics and astronomy at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. He is coauthor of three college-level astronomy textbooks and a frequent public speaker on astronomy and SOFIA. His research specialty is infrared astronomy (the study of the universe by collecting heat rays) –- exactly the kind of work that the SOFIA telescope is designed to do.

The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online at

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in any student parking lot. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters. Foothill College is located off I-280 on El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills. For more information, access or call (650) 949-7888.
Added to the calendar on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 4:37PM
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