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.
- infrared: general
- instrumentation: miscellaneous