About the author

Clemens Plank

Clemens Plank studied mechanical engineering with a focus on aerospace engineering and nuclear technology at the Technical Univeristy of Munich (TU Munich). He completed his dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, in which he investigated computer simulation of hydrogen deflagration. Plank has worked in the Department of Space Science at the DLR Space Administration in Bonn since 2016, and is the German project engineer for the airborne observatory SOFIA.

His fascination for astronomy and technology first emerged in kindergarten, making him practically predestined to embark on a career in aerospace engineering. SOFIA – the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy – brings together both areas. It is his dream job. Away from work, the Austrian national enjoys hiking or mountain biking through the hills. He is also a passionate traveller, exploring distant countries on the most beautiful planet, equipped only with a rucksack.

Posts from Clemens Plank

Space | 01. October 2019

SOFIA explores Europe’s night sky

At last, the airborne observatory SOFIA has returned to Germany! In the early hours of the morning on 16 September, the research aircraft landed safely at Stuttgart airport and was visited by about 2000 astronomy and aircraft enthusiasts over the following two days. On the third day, it took to the skies for its first scientific flight over Europe. read more

Space | 21. December 2018

SOFIA und der "Weihnachtskomet" 46P/Wirtanen

Auf unserem Nachthimmel ist zurzeit ein besonderer Gast zu sehen: der Komet 46P/Wirtanen. Passend zur Jahreszeit könnte man auch von einem "Weihnachtsstern" sprechen. Der berühmte Stern von Bethlehem ist 46P/Wirtanen aber sicherlich nicht gewesen - das war wohl eher sein bekannterer Bruder 1P/Halley. Noch wahrscheinlicher ist allerdings, dass es sich um eine besonders helle Planetenkonstellation aus Jupiter und Saturn im Jahre 7 vor Christus gehandelt hat. Ganz genau wird sich diese Frage wohl nie beantworten lassen. read more

Space | 24. July 2018

SOFIA's record-breaking campaign in New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand, 2 June 2018, 11:03 local time – the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) lands right on time for her fifth deployment 'down under'. We use the term deployment in connection with SOFIA to describe a temporary posting of the observatory with regular flight operations at a location other than its home base in Palmdale, California. Christchurch is the destination for June and July, when we get away from the short summer nights in California to take advantage of the benefits provided by New Zealand's winter. read more

Space | 02. February 2018

SOFIA's 'open-heart surgery'

SOFIA's heart is really sensitive, which is why the doors to it are usually only opened when she is on 'Cloud 9'. At altitudes in excess of 12 kilometres, the air is very clean and there is no danger that the mirror inside SOFIA will become dirty. Any maintenance on the mirror – a thorough cleaning or its installation or removal – brings with it a high risk of damage. read more

Space | 19. December 2017

SOFIA, the two-fold stargazer

An approximately six-by-four metre sliding door was fitted to the fuselage of the aircraft between 1997 and 2007 in order to give the infrared telescope an unobstructed view of the stars. But few people know that even the 'original model' of the 747SP already allowed celestial observation through a sliding door. read more