1. Introduction


1. Introduction

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters, carried aboard a Boeing 747-SP aircraft. It is the successor to the smaller Kuiper Airborne Observatory, which was operated by NASA from 1974 to 1996. The observing altitudes for SOFIA are between 37,000 and 45,000 feet, above 99% of the water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere. The telescope was designed to allow imaging and spectroscopic observations from 0.3 to 1600 μm, with specific capabilities dependent on an evolving science instrument suite, making it one of the premier facilities for astronomical observations at infrared and sub-millimeter wavelengths. The present instrument suite provides coverage from 0.3 - 240 μm with additional capabilities currently in development.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt (DLR). The SOFIA Science Center (SSC), responsible for overseeing the scientific aspects of the mission, is located at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA. Flight operations are conducted out of the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) in Palmdale, CA. The Science Mission Operations are jointly managed by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) for NASA and by the Deutsches SOFIA Institut (DSI), in Stuttgart, for DLR. Aircraft operations are managed by NASA AFRC.

Most of the observing time on SOFIA is open to the international astronomical community via General Investigator (GI) proposal calls, which are issued on a yearly basis. The first of these proposal calls was for "Early Science,'" for which observations were obtained in a series of flights from May - July, September, and November 2011. The first open call for proposals, Cycle 1, covered the period from late 2012 to the end of 2013. The current proposal call is for Cycle 5 observations, which will take place between 1 February, 2017 and 31 January, 2018.

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