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Squawks & HeadlinesThe Jet With a 17-Ton Telescope That NASA Uses as a Flying Observatory

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The Jet With a 17-Ton Telescope That NASA Uses as a Flying Observatory

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If you thought Boeing 747s weren’t useful for understanding how stars are formed, you don’t know about SOFIA. (www.wired.com) More...

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jshhmr
josh homer 2
Puts my 18 inch dobsonian to shame! I guess I have telescope envy!
makinson
Alex Makinson 1
Sofia was featured on the doco "mighty planes", you can download of the net. I love the old QF 747SP.
tonyaguilar13
Jose Aguilar 1
Our Crew had the honors to Service and Detail SOFIA.
hgdelgado
Hernan Delgado 1
joergdewitz
Jörg Dewitz 1
I flew with it February. Flight 143! It was great!!
fabere
fabere 1
No doubt Carl Sagan is smiling down on this project! Well done team from NASA and Germany! Wow!!!
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
I have seen a video of this plane.. It is truly awesome....
nasdisco
Chris B 1
That must make for some interesting CoG calculations......
lwr
lwr 4
I have toured SOFIA at Moffett a couple of years ago. Very neat jet!

They have very heavy thick metal plates mounted on the floor as far forward as possible (just aft of the nose) to bring the CoG forward. They also mounted their networking and compute equipment racks forward of door 1L for the same reason.
bentwing60
bentwing60 -6
Kinda thought that was what that big myopic satellite they put up from the shuttle some time back was for. They spent another billion to fix the myopia and yet we still can't see. It's only taxpayer dollars. Yeah, I'm countin on my social security. As for the CG calculations, a 74 has a huge CG range and the antennae does not traverse fore and aft, ergo, no large shifts in CG. I have government waste disgust!
andromeda07
andromeda07 5
A bit surprising to hear that some people think the Hubble Space Telescope "can't see". It's made countless discoveries that completely changed the way we know the universe -- confirmation of supermassive black holes, discovery of dark energy, discovery of proto-planetary disks around other stars, etc etc. It's taken the deepest, sharpest pictures ever, allowing us to look back in time so far that we can see back to times near the Big Bang, showing tiny protogalaxies that are precursors of the galaxies like the ones we see today. Thousands of the spectacular space images that are floating around the web are from Hubble. It wasn't cheap, but we've gotten a heck of a lot out of it, and it's still going strong, more than 20 years later.
bentwing60
bentwing60 -2
I had thought my post to be sufficiently "sarcastic" as to not require a direct reveal. Evidently not. I have been aware of the Hubble virtually since its inception and am proud of and appreciate the product. The flying observatory is also more than familiar to me, but not the product. My post was in reference to the apparent duplication of missions and the enormous costs of fielding, operating and maintaining same.
r2500
Richard Wolff 6
SOFIA ... Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy. Infrared astronomy requires cryogenically cooled detectors. This means liquid nitrogen sometimes, and liquid helium more generally. Since these boil away during use, they need to be replenish, which with SOFIA is easy ... fill the dewar before each flight. In addition, a host of special design features in the telescope itself are required so the heat radiation of the telescope structure, electronics, etc, does not impinge on the detector. Hubble is completely different and was never intended for IR work.
andromeda07
andromeda07 4
There is no duplication of missions. SOFIA observes primarily in the mid/far-IR and sub-mm wavelengths, whereas Hubble observes in the UV, visible, and near-IR. That means SOFIA can see molecules in particular, and low-energy radiation from neutral atoms and ions, whereas Hubble sees the predominant radiation from atoms and ions, which are higher energy. SOFIA has more instruments than Hubble and so has more flexibility, since they can be physically switched out. These missions take so many years of planning, with so many reviews, and so many different observing parameters and new technology, that simple and wasteful duplication isn't an issue.
r2500
Richard Wolff 4
You mean the Hubble Telescope? It was fully repaired in 1993 and has been in use, full time, for years. No waste here, unless you fully expect any government project to be without error, unlike every other human endeavor.
Paul03
Paul Rybak 4
NASA's budget gets less than ONE PENNY of every tax DOLLAR!