Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy
- Combined work of German Aerospace Center and NASA
- Based in Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in California
- The telescope is 17 tons and mounted onto a a modified Clipper Lindbergh Boeing 747SP Aircraft
- Infrared telescopes are useful because they can eliminate dust interference from the earth's atmosphere and measure energies given off by astronomical bodies.
- The aircraft took several years to build, and it's first flight was on May 26, 2010
- Mainly cycles around the Southern Hemisphere
- Currently, the aircraft is on its second cycle around New Zealand.
Discoveries and Research
How the Telescope Works
- Since the observatory is an airplane, it's less likely to encounter pollution and distortion.
- As the cruising altitude (39,000-45,000 ft) 85% of infrared range is available.
- Flies above 99% of obstructing water vapor, making it more powerful than Spitzer and Hubble's space telescopes because it can see light ranging from ultraviolet to far infrared.
- Combination of modern computers and reflective mirrors, making it a reflective telescope.
- Observers must connect the telescope to a series of computers to receive images
- Temperature and movement of the telescope must be strictly controlled to ensure an accurate infrared image.
- Images collected are then published onto their website - sofia.usra.edu - for researchers,astronomers, and educators to observe.