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:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


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