Inside NASA’s SOFIA Airborne Astronomical Observatory

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As the world’s largest flying observatory, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is a unique space-science asset. SOFIA incorporates a 19-ton German-built telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters in a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that flies astronomical science missions at altitudes between 39,000 and 45,000 feet, above 99 percent of the infrared-blocking water vapor in the atmosphere. Capable of conducting observations in visible through far-infrared spectra from any part of the globe, SOFIA provides access to a spectral region not currently accessible by ground or space telescopes.

A joint program of NASA and the German Aerospace Center DLR, the SOFIA observatory is based at NASA’s Science and Aircraft Integration Facility in Palmdale, Calif., a satellite facility of the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. NASA’s Ames Research Center manages the science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association and the Deutsches SOFIA Institut.

SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program provides educators hands-on experience as they work with scientists during missions on the flying observatory.


Sofia Saporite says:

Anyways, this observatory means so much to our history of discovery and finding life. Perhaps they could figure out if life could be sustaining on Titan. Like if you agree!

Sofia Saporite says:

My name is SOFIA!

diana * says:

what an amazing plane 🙂

josh91512 says:

i like the aircraft but i was wondering why didn't you guys use the shuttle carrier 747 instead of the SP?

Jean Lebel says:

A few years ago I would have loved to participate

Wayne Herman says:

Just another waste of taxpayers hard earned money. What's the point. What are they going to learn and if and when they learn anything–what will NASA do with  this knowledge? Just more confused Scientist–that's what. STOP wasting our money–idiots.
COMMENT by Wayne Herman

Natarajan Ganesan says:

Better way would be to have Drones positioned up and remotely handled by the ground station. Could work out cheaper.

Adam Campbell says:

good job its stuff like this that make me proud of humans spending money where it counts if only the states would dump as much money into science as they do into military and war such a ass backwards country there country could advance and become great if only they spent there money properly schools science taking care of earth healthcare lol not military and not just the states all country's

Idrankyourcoffeewhileyouwerereadingmyusername says:

princess sofia

communistjesus says:

7:48  Unlike the MAVERICKS/GUNG HO pilot characters you see in Hollyweird movies, the reality is a VERY professional team.Working together..Coordination set by meetings… No JOHN McCaines aka "Mavericks", and No GOOSES either.. I wish I could be a PILOT of an airplane such as this one.. 1 can dream

NoNRG87 says:

Beautiful and informative video.

x3llence says:


Fernbedingsung says:

"They can see SOFIA operating […] the next 10 to 15 years" – unfortunately +NASA cut the funds so that operation will cease by September if no solution is found! Operation costs is about 85 Million USD and only 9 Million USD by +DLR, German Aerospace Center are left. Please. Get funding. Try to find a solution. Go and talk to +European Space Agency, ESA – Roskosmos – JAXA – whatever it takes.

Nilin Lusankya says:

TO to SI on 1, the telescope is yours…

Tricia M says:

My brother James Mills works on this project. Very cool.

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