SOFIA

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy

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Basic Information

  • 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.