SOFIA: An aircraft telescope with infrared eye

The flying observatory SOFIA starts its first full observation season

SOFIA during nightly test observations of the starry sky in March 2008. The opening in the fuselage of the converted Boeing 747SP reveals the view of the 2.7 meter infrared telescope built in Germany. NASA
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SOFIA sees things that are invisible to our eyes: the star-spangled veils of a star, the gossamer veil of interstellar matter, but also the ancient warmth that the planet Jupiter still emits. Because all these things are revealed by radiation in the infrared - and on this is the Stratosphere Observatory SOFIA specialized. These days it begins its first full observation season.

Unlike space telescopes like Spitzer or Herschel, SOFIA does not move as a satellite in Earth orbit or at a fixed location in nearby space. Instead, she transports a plane into the upper atmosphere, a discarded Boeing 747. There, at twelve kilometers, the telescope can direct its eye unimpeded by infrared-absorbing steam into the depths of space.

Since the end of 2010, SOFI_A has already completed several scientific measurement flights. Now, in November 2012, is now officially launch the first full research season. By December 2013, the "flying infrared eye" will complete 46 flights, providing astronomers with a total of 330 hours of observation time, allowing them to look deeper into the secrets of stars, galaxies and even planets.

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Nadja Podbregar
As of: 09.11.2012