Meet NASA SOFIA aircraft


by davenn
Tags: aircraft, meet, nasa, sofia
davenn
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Jul20-13, 06:15 AM
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hi all

just got back from a trip to New Zealand.
Whilst at Christchurch City Airport, I was pleased to snap a few pics of the NASA SOFIA
( Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy ) aircraft that is down in this part of the world to do southern hemisphere astronomy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratos...ared_Astronomy



For those of you that havent met SOFIA before, it is the flying observatory that replaced the Kuiper Airborne Observatory ( 1974 - 1995) Which also regularly flew missions out of Christchurch, NZ. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuiper_...ne_Observatory
Myself and several other local amateur astronomers were lucky enough to score a flight in the late '80's

cheers
Dave
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Greg Bernhardt
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Jul20-13, 08:29 AM
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Awesome! I had no idea they did this! What a cool idea! What kind of instruments are on board?
davenn
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Jul20-13, 07:15 PM
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Hey Greg

yes its pretty awesome..
for the SOFIA observatory ( from Wiki)...
The Telescope

SOFIA uses a 2.5-meter reflector telescope, which has an oversized, 2.7 meter diameter primary mirror, as is common with most large infrared telescopes.[2] The optical system uses a Cassegrain reflector design with a parabolic primary mirror and a remotely configurable hyperbolic secondary. In order to fit the telescope into the fuselage, the primary is shaped to an f-number as low as 1.3, while the resulting optical layout has an f-number of 19.7. A flat, tertiary, dichroic mirror is used to deflect the infrared part of the beam to the Nasmyth focus where it can be analyzed. An optical mirror located behind the tertiary mirror is used for a camera guidance system.[1]

The telescope looks out of a large door in the side of the fuselage near the airplane's tail, and will initially carry nine instruments for infrared astronomy at wavelengths from 1–655 micrometres and high-speed optical astronomy at wavelengths from 0.3–1.1 micrometres. The main instruments are the FLITECAM, a near infrared camera covering 1–5 micrometres; FORCAST, covering the mid-infrared range of 5–40 micrometres, and HAWC, which spans the far infrared in the range 42–210 micrometres. The other four instruments include an optical photometer and infrared spectrometers with various spectral ranges.[3] SOFIA’s telescope is by far the largest ever to be placed in an aircraft. For each mission one interchangeable science instrument will be attached to the telescope. Two groups of general purpose instruments are available. In addition an investigator can also design and build a special purpose instrument. On April 17, 2012, two upgrades to HAWC were selected by NASA to increase the field of view with new detector arrays and to add the capability of measuring the polarization of dust emission from celestial sources.[4]

When flying at > 30,000 ft the observatory is above better than 95% of the atmospheric moisture allowing for excellent Infrared astronomy observations.

In 1999, I visited the telescopes atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. ( another cool place to visit if you ever get the chance). Here is a pic I took of the dome of the NASA IR telescope building. Couldnt get access to that one. The twin Keck telescope guys were much more friendly haha.



At almost 14,000 ft, atop Mauna Kea, IR astronomy was very good but the SOFIA observatory well exceeds those observing abilities.

cheers
Dave
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davenn
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Mar18-14, 09:00 PM
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Meet NASA SOFIA aircraft


It was back in July 2013 when I posted this thread with a pic of SOFIA whilst it and I were visiting Christchurch International Airport, in New Zealand.
Here we are ~ 8 months later and I have just learned of some sad news for the astronomical community.
Because of NASA budget cuts for the 2014 - 15 financial year, it is most likely that the SOFIA aircraft will be mothballed after 30 Sept 2014 ( financial year end) unless additional funding can be found from interested sources outside of NASA.

fingers crossed that some rich scientific organisations will step up

cheers
Dave
Drakkith
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Mar18-14, 11:56 PM
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Ooohh...sweet!
Cosmobrain
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Mar21-14, 11:55 AM
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I remembering watching a documentary where they've flown on board this plane. It actually is in INFRARED observatory, and when it is in the air it has to be cryo cooled so the telescope won't see itself
davenn
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Mar21-14, 11:10 PM
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It actually is in INFRARED observatory
Yes, we know that .... thats what the "I" in SOFIA stands for

Dave
Cosmobrain
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Mar22-14, 11:05 AM
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Quote Quote by davenn View Post
Yes, we know that .... thats what the "I" in SOFIA stands for

Dave
I didn't know SOFIA stood for something. ^^ I thought they just chose a cute name or something.

Anyways you americans are pro at coming up with good acronyms. There is the Messenger spacecraft that was launched to study Mercury. In the greek/roman mythology, Mercury was the messenger, that's why people at NASA chose that name for the probe. As if that name wasn't enough, they managed to make Messenger stand for something. Go figure
davenn
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Mar22-14, 06:33 PM
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I didn't know SOFIA stood for something. ^^ I thought they just chose a cute name or something.
read the very first post in the thread

and OHH, Im NOT American

Dave
jhae2.718
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Mar23-14, 12:48 PM
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Quote Quote by Cosmobrain View Post
I didn't know SOFIA stood for something. ^^ I thought they just chose a cute name or something.

Anyways you americans are pro at coming up with good acronyms. There is the Messenger spacecraft that was launched to study Mercury. In the greek/roman mythology, Mercury was the messenger, that's why people at NASA chose that name for the probe. As if that name wasn't enough, they managed to make Messenger stand for something. Go figure
NASA is very, very good at coming up with acronyms.
Cosmobrain
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Mar23-14, 01:28 PM
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Quote Quote by jhae2.718 View Post
NASA is very, very good at coming up with acronyms.
Yes, I figured


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