The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, during its first test flight with its telescope exposed, on 13 July 2010. The German-built 2.5-metre infrared telescope is visible through the opening in the aircraft.
The flying observatory SOFIA (stratospheric observatory for infrared astronomy) is a joint project of DLR and NASA, the US space agency. The German 2.7-metre reflecting telescope at the heart of the observatory is a masterstroke of German engineering: its platform is a former passenger aircraft, a Boeing 747 SP whose fuselage has been fitted with a hatch that can be opened and shut in flight – a feature without parallel in the world.
Instruments specially developed for SOFIA permit astronomical observations in the infrared and sub-millimetre spectrum. This segment of the electro-magnetic band is largely inaccessible from the ground. In 2011, two hydrogen compounds (OD and SH) were discovered in space during the first scientific flights. Astronomers intend to use SOFIA to investigate the formation of planetary systems and remote galaxies in the next 20 years.
Last modified:17/08/2012 10:46:07