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Awesome Science: SOFIA

There are some things about science that are just plain awesome.

Take this airborne telescope for example. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a joint project between NASA and the German Space Agency (DLR) consists of a 2.5 metre reflecting telescope carried in the back of a Boeing 747. This is just too friggin awesome to NOT talk about!


SOFIA with its aft bay doors open, exposing the 2.5 metre reflecting telescope.

SOFIA is designed for infrared (IR) astronomy, the study of wavelengths in the IR region of the electromagnetic spectrum (wavelengths from 0.75 to 300 μm). IR astronomy can be limited from surface observatories because a large amount of IR radiation is absorbed by the water vapour present in the Earth’s atmosphere. By cruising at altitudes above 40,000 feet, SOFIA flies above the densest part of the atmosphere and allows easier study in the IR spectrum.

On May 26, 2010, SOFIA made its first in-flight observations. It observed the planet Jupiter at different wavelengths in the IR spectrum.


First in-flight observations made by SOFIA. The planet Jupiter was photographed at various wavelengths in the IR spectrum.

SOFIA is scheduled to be fully operational by the year 2014, and is scheduled to be operational for about 20 years.

For more information on SOFIA, you can check out its official site: http://www.sofia.usra.edu/

or you can check out its mission page on the NASA’s website: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/SOFIA/index.html

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