Exploring vast molecular clouds with GREATFor the first time, an upgraded version of GREAT will also be flying in New Zealand – upGREAT. Instead of one detector, like in GREAT, upGREAT operates 14 detectors simultaneously. These are divided into two arrays and can therefore map a molecular cloud significantly faster. "With upGREAT, the performance and observing efficiency of our instruments is increased approximately 10 times, and new unexplored frequency ranges become accessible," explains Rolf Güsten, head of the GREAT instrument at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn. "This year, the investigations will focus on the mapping of atomic oxygen in the Magellanic Clouds and in the galactic centre to study the chemistry of protoplanetary disks and planetary nebula, as well as the hunt for molecules thus far not detected in space."
FIFI-LS acquires data on star formationFIFI-LS will be exploring the southern hemisphere for the first time. This instrument observes with substantially more wavelengths than GREAT, and can perform faster large-scale mapping of extensive molecular clouds. This time, FIFI-LS will be used to study the elements oxygen, nitrogen and carbon in star forming regions and the interstellar medium – the space between the stars both in our Milky Way and in other more distant galaxies. "This allows us to generate a detailed inventory of the material in the vicinity of the galactic centre," explains Alfred Krabbe, head of the FIFI-LS instrument and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. "We will also investigate the large star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud. This can only be done from New Zealand."
FORCAST closes the campaignDuring its nine flights, FORCAST will measure at shorter wavelengths than FIFI-LS and observe in particular dust discs around newly formed stars, but also the dust that has been thrown back into the Universe by old stars and supernovae. On 25 July, SOFIA will fly back to Palmdale again. Following a period of maintenance of the aircraft and the telescope, another 40 scientific flights will be carried out from California from mid-August until the end of 2016.