For the first time, scientists have peered at the stars using the newly installed telescope aboard NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the largest airborne observatory in the world.
During the night of Aug. 18-19 in its first ground-based 'on-sky test,' the telescope was pointed at the star Polaris. A crisp white dot appeared on astronomers' computer screens inside the aircraft, demonstrating that the telescope's basic optical, mechanical and software systems all are functioning properly.
Columbia, Maryland--The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) announced today that it has selected Evergreen International Airlines to operate and maintain NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft.
Evergreen International Airlines will provide operational support, flight crews, and training and dispatch, while Evergreen Air Center will provide heavy maintenance and support.
All major components of the telescope, excepting the secondary and tertiary mirrors, have now been installed in the SOFIA aircraft. In addition, all control and support equipment is now in place and has been shown to function correctly. A major milestone was reached in November when the 1.2 meter spherical hydrostatic bearing was successfully used to float the ten-ton SOFIA telescope on 50 atmospheres of oil pressure. At that point the telescope could be moved easily by one person. The telescope servo control system was closed around the electronic fiber optic gyros in early December.