For science, two Utah teachers take a trip out of this world

Dec 10, 2021, 6:18 PM
teachers NASA...
NASA's SOFIA observatory (NASA)

SALT LAKE CITY — To see their students succeed, some teachers will move heaven and earth.

Two educators from Utah’s Canyons School District — Clief Castleton from Hillcrest High and Milo Maughan from Corner Canyon High — were selected to attend a prestigious astrophysics teacher-training program that includes a flight into the stratosphere. 

They are now officially 2021 NASA Airborne Astronomy ambassadors.

Castleton and Maughn flew up into the Stratosphere on Tuesday night. The pair return to the skies on Friday to share what they observed with their Earthling students.

What on earth is the Stratosphere?

The Stratosphere extends around 31 miles (50 km) down to anywhere from 4 to 12 miles (6 to 20 km) above the Earth’s surface, according to the NOAA.

The average commercial passenger jetliner cruises at an altitude between 30,000 and 42,000 feet (9,000 – 13,000 meters). To put that in perspective, the peak of Mount Everest is 29,029 feet.

Castleton and Maughn flew aboard NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory, which is a modified 747 aircraft with a 100-inch telescope on board. 

Castleton said their flight Tuesday reached 42,000 feet above Earth.

The SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) observatory specializes in infrared astronomy. In October 2020, astronomers reported detecting molecular water on the sunlit surface of the moon by several independent spacecraft, including SOFIA.

The teachers’ flight launched after sunset. Flying through the stratosphere, Maughan said all he could see was a milky blackness.

But “SOFIA is an infrared telescope. It’s looking at the light that we can’t actually see with our eyes, but computer consoles are showing us what it was looking at,” he said.

What do the kids learn?

Dave asked: “What do you bring back to your kids in class and what is that conversation like?”

Maughn said he will teach his students the science behind infrared radiation. Also, on the syllabus, “magnetic fields in galaxies and nebulas,” which SOFIA was gazing upon Tuesday evening.

“How do we study those magnetic fields using the polarized light coming off of the nebula and galaxies?” Maughan asked rhetorically.

“How did you get chosen for this program?” Dave asked.

“Well, it was a competitive application process,” Castleton said. “It was pretty rigorous. We had to answer some essay questions.”

“Can I just say, It’s sweet justice that you had to write an essay,” Dave replied.


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

Dave & Dujanovic

emergency kits are a vital part of preparedness for families...
Curt Gresseth

How families should prepare for an emergency at home or away

Do you have an emergency reunification plan ready for your loved ones? Two experts share tips on what to do when disaster strikes while at home or away.
5 months ago
Cherie Wood...
Curt Gresseth

South Salt Lake mayor defends new $130,000 salary

The mayor of South Salt Lake defended her latest salary of $130,000 by saying she hasn't received a pay raise in 11 years in office.
5 months ago
South Salt Lake at Southern X-posure, the site of a deadly shooting....
Curt Gresseth

South Salt Lake resident wants to stop mayor and City Council from awarding themselves raises

A South Salt Lake resident has taken his ballot initiative on pay raises for city leaders to the Utah Supreme Court after being rebuffed by the city attorney on what he said was a technicality.
5 months ago
Connerjack Oswalt was found in Park City, Utah after being missing from California years ago. (CNN)...
Curt Gresseth

Missing three years, autistic teen found in Park City

An autistic teen missing from northern California since 2019 was found by sheriff's deputies in Summit County, Utah. He has since been reunited with his stepfather.
5 months ago
Debbie busts inflation by buying consigned clothes....
Debbie Dujanovic

Dujanovic: Battling inflation like it’s 1981

Inflation has Debbie Dujanovic budgeting like it's 1981. She has tips on how to battle inflation and save your wallet some tears.
6 months ago
Devin Oldroyd

Utah wants your help redesigning the state flag by April 30

MILLCREEK, Utah — Utah residents have until April 30 to submit their ideas for a redesign of the Utah state flag.  According to a press release from the Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement, Gov. Spencer J. Cox launched the “More than a Flag” effort in January. The effort is part of a statewide […]
6 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
For science, two Utah teachers take a trip out of this world