Welcome to the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy- SOFIA

The NASA/ SOFIA 747 is a most impressive aircraft and the science behind this aircraft is most amazing!

Members of the Dr.Sky team, as well as members of our other aviation and space related web team;; have been invited to experience a true SOFIA mission, in the next few weeks!

Joining us on a nearly 10 hour mission, will be some educators/teachers from around the nation. The emphasis is on education and NASA does a great job at that!

We will be interviewing the pilots, scientists and guests, on what is going on with this interesting mission. Expect to see a high quality video and audio interviews from this mission, here at and, in the weeks to come!


Here is an overview of the SOFIA program:

SOFIA Overview

Mission Overview

SOFIA is the largest airborne observatory in the world, capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes. During its planned 20-year lifetime, SOFIA also will inspire the development of new scientific instrumentation and foster the education of young scientists and engineers.

SOFIA is an 80/20 partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), consisting of an extensively modified Boeing 747SP aircraft carrying a reflecting telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters (100 inches).

The observatory is based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California. NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, manages SOFIA’s science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA; Columbia, Md.) and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI; University of Stuttgart).

The Flying Observatory

The SOFIA observatory is a Boeing 747SP with a distinguished history. It was originally acquired by Pan American World Airways and was delivered in May 1977. The “SP” designates that this is a special performance, short-body version of the 747, designed for longer flights than the Boeing 747 Classics (747-100, -200, and -300 series jetliners).

Although Pan Am typically named its aircraft after famous clipper ships, they gave this aircraft a special name — the Clipper Lindbergh — in honor of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh’s widow, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, personally christened the aircraft and officially placed it into service on May 6, 1977 — the 50th anniversary of his history-making first solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927

SOFIA and the Infrared Universe

Studying the universe using only visible light results in a very limited view, as you can see from the two images on the right. Visible light – the light you see with your eyes – reveals only part of the universe. Astronomers observe many other types of “light” to expand our views of the universe. SOFIA is designed to observe the infrared universe.

nfrared energy is just one part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes visible light, x-rays, radio waves and others. Many objects in space emit almost all their energy at infrared wavelengths. Often, they are invisible when observed in ordinary visible light. In other cases, clouds of gas and dust in space block the light emitted by more distant objects, but allow infrared energy to reach our telescopes. In both cases, the only way to learn about other objects is to study the infrared light they emit.

SOFIA will be used to study many different kinds of astronomical objects and phenomena, but some of the most interesting are:

  • Star birth and death
  • Formation of new solar systems
  • Identification of complex molecules in space
  • Planets, comets and asteroids in our solar system
  • Nebulae and dust in galaxies (or, Ecosystems of galaxies)
  • Black holes at the center of galaxies

SOFIA’s instruments — cameras, spectrometers, and photometers — operate in the near-, mid- and far-infrared wavelengths, some better suited to studying a particular phenomena, while others are general purpose but capable of acquiring data simultaneously with another instrument.

For a gallery of SOFIA science images, click here.

It is our goal, to broadcast LIVE, on Coast To Coast AM with George Noory, on Tuesday, November 3rd; at 10PM PST/1AM EST Nov.4th , from the SOFIA 747, somewhere over the USA….Stay tuned!