SOFIA Highlights: Observatory update

Infrared image of the heart of the Orion star-formation complex

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, completed the first of three science flights on Wednesday morning to demonstrate the aircraft's potential to make discoveries about the infrared universe.

Infrared image of Jupiter from SOFIA’s First Light flight

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a joint program by NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), achieved a major milestone May 26, 2010, when the airborne observatory made its first in-flight nighttime observations. Astronomers call the first observations by a new observatory “first light.”

Telescope Assembly and HIPO instrument on-sky test crews at work in the SOFIA cabin

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.