IACTalks

Back Menu

Airborne Infrared Astronomy with SOFIA (part I)


Dr. Hans Zinnecker
Deutsches SOFIA Institut, Univ. of Stuttgart, Germany (retired)


February 19th, 2019

Abstract

 

SOFIA, short for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy,
is a 2.7m telescope flying on a Boeing 747SP at altitudes of 12-14km,
to detect and study mid- and far-infrared radiation that is blocked
by water vapor in the earth's atmosphere and cannot reach the
ground. It is the successor to the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (1974-1995)
and currently the only access to and platform for astronomical observations
in the far-infrared (30-300 microns), except for balloon-borne telescopes.
 
SOFIA normally flies out of California, but once a year also
deploys to the Southern Hemisphere (usually to Christchurch,
New Zealand), benefitting from the excellent wintertime
stratospheric conditions to study the rich southern skies.
Although a bilateral project (80:20)
between USA (NASA/USRA) and Germany (DLR/DSI), it is open for
proposals from the world-wide astronomical community at large.
It addresses many science questions that ESA's successful but
now extinct Herschel Observatory has left unanswered and
offers observational opportunities similar to and beyond Herschel.
SOFIA also has many synergies with ALMA and APEX, as well as IRAM
and other submm and radio telescopes.

In part I of this SOFIA lecture, I will introduce the observatory 
in general, the plane, the telescope, the mode of operation, and 
in particular the current and future instrumentation.

In part II (later this week),  I will present a glimpse of SOFIA science
highlights and discoveries in its first 6 years of operation
(since 2012), including the most recent astrophysical and astrochemical 
results. I will also address its future ISM and star formation potential.  

SOFIA is a unique observatory, different from ground-based and
space platforms, which will serve the mid- and far-infrared 
astronomical community for many years to come.
 
It is a fascinating experience to fly on SOFIA!