Inside The Heart Of The World's Largest Flying Observatory, SOFIA
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (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. SOFIA will soon be studying Neptune's giant moon, Triton, and following up on Hubble's recent sighting of water plumes on Jupiter's moon Europa. The observatory is an extensively modified Boeing 747SP aircraft carrying a reflecting telescope. SOFIA studies many different kinds of astronomical objects and phenomena, including star birth and death, the formation of new solar systems, black holes at the center of galaxies, and complex molecules in space. SOFIA's instruments - cameras, spectrometers, and photometers - operate in the near-, mid-, and far-infrared wavelengths, allowing scientists onboard to study the solar system while flying at 38,000-45,000 feet.