Originally shared by Aviation Voice
The Jet with a 17-ton telescope that NASA uses as a Flying Observatory
If you thought Boeing 747s weren’t useful for understanding how stars are formed, you don’t know about SOFIA.
Officially known as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA is a heavily modified Boeing 747 Special Performance jetliner, with a 17-ton, 8-foot telescope mounted behind a 16-by-23-foot sliding door that reveals the infrared telescope to the skies.
The plane’s ability to fly near the edges of the atmosphere gives it better visibility than ground-based observatories. And the fact that it makes regular appearances on Earth’s surface, unlike a space telescope, means it can easily be repaired or reprogrammed when necessary.