Early science with SOFIA, the stratospheric observatory for infrared astronomy

E. T. Young, E. E. Becklin, P. M. Marcum, T. L. Roellig, J. M. De Buizer, T. L. Herter, R. Güsten, E. W. Dunham, P. Temi, B. G. Andersson, D. Backman, M. Burgdorf, L. J. Caroff, S. C. Casey, J. A. Davidson, E. F. Erickson, R. D. Gehrz, D. A. Harper, P. M. Harvey, L. A. HeltonS. D. Horner, C. D. Howard, R. Klein, A. Krabbe, I. S. McLean, A. W. Meyer, J. W. Miles, M. R. Morris, W. T. Reach, J. Rho, M. J. Richter, H. P. Roeser, G. Sandell, R. Sankrit, M. L. Savage, E. C. Smith, R. Y. Shuping, W. D. Vacca, J. E. Vaillancourt, J. Wolf, H. Zinnecker

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212 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is an airborne observatory consisting of a specially modified Boeing 747SP with a 2.7m telescope, flying at altitudes as high as 13.7km (45,000ft). Designed to observe at wavelengths from 0.3 μm to 1.6mm, SOFIA operates above 99.8% of the water vapor that obscures much of the infrared and submillimeter. SOFIA has seven science instruments under development, including an occultation photometer, near-, mid-, and far-infrared cameras, infrared spectrometers, and heterodyne receivers. SOFIA, a joint project between NASA and the German Aerospace Center Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und-Raumfahrt, began initial science flights in 2010 December, and has conducted 30 science flights in the subsequent year. During this early science period three instruments have flown: the mid-infrared camera FORCAST, the heterodyne spectrometer GREAT, and the occultation photometer HIPO. This Letter provides an overview of the observatory and its early performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL17
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume749
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 20 2012

Keywords

  • infrared: general
  • instrumentation: miscellaneous
  • telescopes

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