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.
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.
The SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) airborne observatory – a joint venture between the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA – explores the evolution of galaxies using the telescope. Since 2011, the hatch of the modified Boeing 747SP has been opened 250 times to observe the night sky.