Cobb Teachers Take Flight with NASA

Cobb Teachers Take Flight with NASA.

Cobb High School Science Teachers Experience NASA’s SOFIA Telescope Observatory

In October of this year, four Cobb County School District high school science teachers got the chance of a lifetime to learn about and fly aboard the SOFIA flying telescope observatory as part of a unique professional development opportunity.The teachers were Berkil Alexander of Kennesaw Mountain High School, Nikki Bisesi of Hillgrove High School, Philip Matthews of Kennesaw Mountain High School and Season Stalcup of Wheeler High School.SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a 2.7-meter (106-inch) reflecting telescope. Flying into the stratosphere at 38,000-45,000 feet puts SOFIA above 99 percent of Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere, allowing astronomers to study the solar system and beyond in ways that are not possible with ground-based telescopes. SOFIA is made possible through a partnership between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The observatory’s mobility allows researchers to observe from almost anywhere in the world, and enables studies of transient events that often take place over oceans where there are no telescopes. For example, astronomers on SOFIA studied eclipse-like events of Pluto, Saturn’s moon Titan, and Kuiper Belt Object MU69, the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, to study the objects’ atmospheres and surroundings.

Science teachers from Cobb took part in the Airborne Astronomy Ambassador program offered through a partnership with the SETI Institute.  The Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) program is designed to measurably enhance student STEM achievement and engagement in selected school districts via professional development for high school science teachers.  Cobb science teachers took part in aSTEM immersion experience at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s science research aircraft facility in Palmdale, California. While there the science teachers flew aboard the SOFIA aircraft with NASA and astrophysics researchers to study different aspects of the atmosphere.  Following the STEM immersion experience, AAA program staff work with the teachers to implement in their classrooms a NASA- and SOFIA-oriented electromagnetic spectrum and infrared astronomy curriculum module developed by the SETI Institute. This is truly a unique professional development experience that these Cobb science teachers will never forget.

Christian Cali, Supervisor

Contributing Author: Ms. Alana Davis

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