In my last post (“How ‘Bout Them Jackets?“), I featured a couple of my weather jackets. I have also been known (especially during the 2019 “Out of this World” tour) to sport a snazzy NASA flight jacket. I got that cool jacket as part of my work as an Airborne Astronomy Ambassador (AAA) aboard NASA’s SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) aircraft.
This month is an end of an era for SOFIA — funding has dried up so SOFIA only has a few more flights left in her. It is sad to see the program come to an end, but I feel so lucky to have taken part in two research flights and have only fond memories. I learned so much about infrared astronomy in the lead-up to my flights and continue to teach about multi-wavelength astronomy not only in my astronomy classroom, but also during public performances.
On a personal note, my flights aboard SOFIA inspired one of my personal favorites among the songs I’ve written — “Infra-Ready (Set to Go!).” I actually went into a studio to record this one, and got to work with some great local musical talent (Jesse Steward on drums, Ryan Pressley on lead guitar/bass, and Haley Agnew Johnson on keyboards/backing vocals — a band that I named “The Same Wavelengths”) in the process.
One last story before I end my stroll down amnesia lane. Two of my science communication heroes are Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. A few years ago (even before my SOFIA flight) I made contact with Neil’s nephew, a talented musician named Stephen Tyson Jr. When I wrote, recorded and made the video for “Infra-Ready (Set to Go!),” I was so excited about the song I shared it with Steve via email. In the message, I slipped in a big ask:
“If you like the song and video, would you pass it along to the likes of Bill Nye and NDT? Bill Nye inspired me as a young teacher to include music in my science education efforts and NDT has been my beacon when it comes to communicating why astronomy can often be the “gateway drug” in opening up a greater appreciation for science and technology for students of all ages.
Art and science, science and art . . . this is the path to prosperity (and the maintenance of sanity) in these trying times.”
And here is the response I received from Steve a few weeks later:
“I had the opportunity to share your video with the family over the Thanksgiving holiday (at which Bill was also present) and they enjoyed your video! Keep up the great work!”
The fact that two of my science communication heroes have seen my work (and liked it) is extremely gratifying. And that wouldn’t have been possible had I not been selected to fly into the lower stratosphere on a plane with a telescope sticking out of the side of it. So long, SOFIA . . .