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SOFIA isn’t the first time NASA has conducted astronomy from an airplane. Planetary scientist Gerard Kuiper pointed a 12-inch telescope out the window of a modified Learjet in 1968. Seven years later, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory carried a 36-inch...

Inside SOFIA, NASA’s airborne infrared telescope

SOFIA isn’t the first time NASA has conducted astronomy from an airplane. Planetary scientist Gerard Kuiper pointed a 12-inch telescope out the window of a modified Learjet in 1968. Seven years later, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory carried a 36-inch...

Inside SOFIA, NASA’s airborne infrared telescope

SOFIA isn’t the first time NASA has conducted astronomy from an airplane. Planetary scientist Gerard Kuiper pointed a 12-inch telescope out the window of a modified Learjet in 1968. Seven years later, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory carried a 36-inch reflecting telescope aboard a converted Lockheed C-141 military cargo plane.

Formerly a Pan American and later a United Airlines airliner, the 747 SP that would one day become SOFIA was built in 1977, acquired by NASA in 1997 and began flying scientific missions in 2010. (The “SP” stands for “special performance,” indicating that the plane was built for longer flights. Only 45 SPs were built, compared with more than 1,500 747s.)

SOFIA’s namesake infrared telescope is mounted in the rear of the plane. Scientists use the telescope to study star and planet formation, black holes, planets and other bodies in our own solar system and more.

The rest of the plane is almost unrecognizable as a former passenger vehicle. Ten workstations face the telescope, with double monitors at each station bolted to the console. At the front of the plane are 12 seats in first class, away from where the science is happening. The seats that formerly occupied the left third of first class have been replaced with servers, sealed away inside metal cages, with air conditioners running full blast on them at all times.

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Publish Date : 23 Şubat 2017 Perşembe 18:13

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