SOFIA, the US-German Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is the world’s only airborne observatory; a modified Boeing 747SP carrying a 2.70-metre telescope. Flying above most of the Earth’s atmosphere and avoiding absorption by water vapour means that astronomical observations can be performed in the infrared and submillimetre wavelength ranges. The scientific objective of SOFIA is to explore, among other things, the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars and planetary systems. The first scientific observations on board SOFIA flights have taken place in the past few months.
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