Maggie Thompson, former DTM Research Trainee and now doctoral student at UC Santa Cruz, flew on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)
on August 22. While a pre-doc at DTM in 2016-2017, Thompson worked with Alycia Weinberger
on studying the dust around an extremely dusty, old star called BD+20 307. Using data taken with the infrared spectrograph (FORCAST) on SOFIA, they found that the disk got brighter over time. This object is the dustiest disk known and probably resulted from a massive collision of giant asteroids. Thompson and Weinberger recently submitted a paper with these results to the American Astronomical Society Journals
. They also applied to continue studying the dust with SOFIA. On August 22, Thompson flew on board SOFIA. She helped collect new observations to test whether the disk has continued to change in brightness or composition. The flight lasted 10 hours and zigzagged over the western US. The SOFIA aircraft, a joint mission by NASA and the German Aerospace Center, is a Boeing 747 with a door that opens to let a 2.5 m telescope observe while flying above most of the water vapor in Earth's atmosphere.