Casey Byrne '13 To Fly Aboard NASA's SOFIA Telescope

Update: June 5, 2013, 1 p.m. Casey Byrne '13 hit some turbulence of sorts Tuesday night. His long awaited trip in SOFIA, which is NASA's high-flying observatory, was cut short when its telescope ran into electrical issues. The 747 itself was fine, but it was forced back to Palmdale, Calif., halfway into the scheduled flight.

Good news though: The physics grad was able to squeeze in his project, says IC professor Luke Keller.

"Fortunately Casey Byrne got a little time at the controls of the data analysis computer to see the culmination of his work at IC over the past two years," blogged Keller. Byrne also spent time answering questions and explaining IC's projects to a group of science teachers on board.

Though Byrne's flight was shortened, don't feel bad for his frequent flyer account. The 3,800 miles that SOFIA logged is still more than the mileage from Ithaca to Marrakesh, Morocco.

Next up: Byrne's fellow '13 grad Rob Lewis will have his shot Thursday night.

"We're optimistic that the power system will be back to 100 percent," Keller wrote, "and Rob will complete the tests we had scheduled for Tuesday."

Original article:

In just a few hours, one of Ithaca College's newest graduates will take to the skies in what's essentially a large flying telescope.

Casey Byrne '13 is now in Palmdale, Calif., ready to board NASA'S SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy). The physicist will test software he helped write as part of his senior thesis. His fellow '13 graduate Rob Lewis and current physics student Martin Garay MacLean will fly on two later flights, helping with data quality control to insure that researchers make the most of their 10-hour flights.

Mounted in a nonpressurized compartment inside a modified Boeing 747, the telescope is almost as tall as an elephant and weighs more than three times more.

Their professor, Luke Keller, has already been aboard SOFIA and tracks IC's role on his Frequent Flyer blog. The physicist was also featured in a 2010 IC View story:

"We are going to see the universe in detail never before possible.”


Originally published in IC News: Casey Byrne '13 To Fly Aboard NASA's SOFIA Telescope.

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