The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a joint German-US space science project. Carrying a 2.5-metre telescope inside a modified Boeing 747SP, the airborne observatory performs astronomical observations in the infrared and submillimetre wavelengths, high above the disturbance of Earth's atmosphere.
The helium hydride ion, to give HeH+ its full name, once posed something of a dilemma for science. Although its existence has been known from laboratory studies for almost 100 years, it had not been found in space, despite extensive searches. As a result, the chemical model calculations associated with it were called into question.
Kia ora is how the Māori, New Zealand's indigenous people, traditionally welcome their guests – even when said guest is a flying observatory. At 01:05 Central European Summer Time (11:05 local time) on 23 June 2017, SOFIA was greeted with Kia ora when it touched 'down under' at Christchurch Airport.
SOFIA is in New Zealand for the third time – it visited the country in 2013 and 2015 as well. On 6 June 2016, the joint NASA and German Aerospace Center (DLR) flying observatory landed at Christchurch Internationl Airport at 01:37 CEST (11:37 local time). The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) will embark on the first scientific flight of this year's campaign in the southern hemisphere on 9 June.