Colloquia 2006

SOFIA: the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy

Dr Edwin Erickson
NASA Ames Research Center

4pm, Thursday, 30November

School of Physics Common Room
Room 64 Old Main Building
The University of New South Wales

SOFIA is a mobile ground-based observatory which will operate in the lower stratosphere. It is designed to permit observations at nearly all wavelengths from 0.3 microns to 1.6 mm, over a 20 year lifetime. Its 2.5 m effective diameter telescope will be diffraction limited at wavelengths beyond about 10 microns, providing unprecedented angular resolution (~8" FWHM at 100 microns) in the far infrared. SOFIA's Boeing 747SP aircraft platform will allow coverage of the entire sky and enable unique observations of ephemeral events. Nine first-generation focal plane instruments are being built, with more to be added later.

A general purpose observatory, SOFIA will enable a vast range of science, from star and galaxy formation to the properties of Kuiper Belt Objects. SOFIA's wide wavelength coverage, long lifetime, and accessibility will enable unmatched continuity of opportunity for infrared observations and instrument technology development. The program will include a strong educational component. This talk will describe the observatory, science instruments and examples, operations planning, development, and status.

SOFIA is a joint program of NASA in the U.S. and DLR in Germany.


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