Caitlin Fairchild | Nextgov | March 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Jumbo Jet NASA Turned Into a Telescope


Sofia isn't your ordinary Boeing 747. Sofia, or Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is co-owned by NASA and Germany's space agency DLR and has been transformed into a flying, infrared telescope.

A 16-by-23-foot hole was cut in the fuselage to place the telescope, which is fitted with gyroscopes and precision bearings to keep it locked on its target, even during turbulence.

"You might think that this is insanity or a crazy idea. We ran into so many problems," said Eric Becklin, chief science adviser for Sofia. "The door had to work just right and it took years for that door to be right. But once we got it working, we were getting results that can't be done any other way at this point."

Now, the plane flies all around the world and high into the stratosphere to give Sofia a look out into space. Its infrared light view gives NASA an up-close look at things like the clouds of gas that will one day form new stars.

Sofia has also shown NASA a close look at the atmosphere of Pluto and looked at a black hole in the middle of the Milky Way galaxy.

To learn more, check out the video below from Wired


Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.