A quarter of the way into its 20-year-mission, SOFIA stands for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy – it’s a 747 outfitted with a 2.5m reflecting telescope; most-impressively, the aircraft’s fuselage has been modified so a door can open during flight to give the telescope optimal viewing of the sky.
SOFIA is the largest airborne observatory in the world, capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes. During its planned 20-year lifetime, SOFIA also will inspire the development of new scientific instrumentation and foster the education of young scientists and engineers.
PDFs with plenty more information about SOFIA’s instruments and design can be found here, with more general information available here on NASA.gov. And of course the plane has its own Twitter account!
(Note the size of the person in comparison to the machinery!)
PDFs with plenty more information about SOFIA’s instruments and design can be found here.