Telescope bringing science to life

SPACE STUDIES —Artist Shana Mabari stands in front of the 100-inch-diameter infrared telescope at the heart of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, when she took part in a recent science flight on board the world-class flying telescope. She plans to use her observations during the flight for a 2020 exhibit at the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster.

NASA’s Stratospheric Ob­ser­vatory for Infrared As­tron­omy, or SOFIA, reg­u­larly carries international astronomers on board its night­time flights to study the far reaches of the galaxy.

The flying telescope also is employed to bring its sci­ence to life for ed­u­ca­tors and others, including most recently an artist as­so­ciated with the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster.

Shana Mabari joined a flight from the ob­ser­va­tory’s home base at NASA Armstrong Flight Re­search Center’s facility in Palmdale on Dec. 11, where she gathered information to further her goal of communicating aerospace science through art.

“Shana Mabari was given the opportunity to fly on a SOFIA mission to observe science being con­duct­ed first-hand. Her observations and inter­ac­tions with SOFIA’s in­ter­national team of as­tron­omers will become part of her interpretation of light along the magnetic spectrum for Antelope Val­ley’s Museum of Art and History,” USRA Manager of SOFIA Communications Nick Veronico said.

SOFIA is a highly modified 747 airliner that carries a 100-inch-diameter infrared telescope. By fly­ing at altitudes above 41,000 feet, the world-class telescope is above most of the atmospheric water vapor that blocks in­fra­red rays, which as­tron­omers use to study such cosmic phenomena as the formation of stars and the building blocks of the universe.

Throughout the course of her 10-hour flight aboard SOFIA, Mabari observed astronomers at work, and intends to use what she saw as inspiration for an upcoming museum exhibit in 2020, which will examine light in space.

Mabari is known in the Antelope Valley for her mon­u­mental sculpture “As­tral Challenger” at Chal­len­ger Way and Avenue L.

“It was an honor and a privilege to experience the elegant complexities of infrared astronomy, as­tro­physics, and as­tro­chem­istry with the NASA team,” Mabari said.

As an extension of Mab­ari’s project, the artist and the museum will part­ner with publisher Grif­fith Moon to create a book dedicated to the in­ter­pre­tations of the term “space” through text and images. This exhibit will also include the spatial in­stal­lation work of Laddie John Dill and photographs by artist Jay Mark Johnson.

“This exhibit will forge an important connection between the arts and sci­ence, especially given the region’s deep history with aerospace and its creative innovation,” Lancaster As­sistant City Manager Ronda Perez said.

“It is due to historic expeditions such as the one taken by NASA and Mabari earlier this month, that our community has become synonymous with the aerospace industry,” Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said. “A new space race is underway, as so many in this ever-evolving field work to make civilian space tourism a reality. Our city champions innovation; this partnership between NASA and MOAH is yet another ‘first’ for the city of Lancaster.”

SOFIA regularly hosts ed­ucators on board its flights as part of the Air­borne Astronomy Am­bas­sadors program, including several from the Antelope Valley over the years.

Additionally, actress Nich­elle Nichols, best known for her role as Lt. Uhura on “Star Trek,” took part in a SOFIA mission in 2015, part of her longtime work as an ambassador for NASA’s programs and to educate and inspire future generations.

44857 Cedar Avenue,

Lancaster, CA 93534

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