A flying telescope? Observing NASA's SOFIA airborne observatory

NASA gives tours of its Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, a modified Boeing 747 that offers up unprecedented clarity for Earth-based telescopes.

NASA this past weekend offered up tours of its recently souped up airborne telescope, built inside a modified Boeing 747 aircraft. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is the world's largest airborne observatory.

SOFIA carries a telescope with a 100-inch reflecting mirror that conducts astronomy research not possible with ground-based telescopes, NASA said. It's normally housed at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., but CNET got to see it Friday at a press event at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden said SOFIA is a unique tool, one which will help scientist to further understand the astrobiology of the universe, including the origins of life.

Among those who were encouraged to participate in a tour and "tweet-up" of sorts on Saturday were NASA's Twitter followers and the public at large.

Join CNET for the following audio-slideshow tour of the SOFIA observatory:

About the author

James Martin is the staff photographer at CNET News, covering the geeks and gadgets of Silicon Valley. When he's not live-blogging the latest product launches from Apple, Google, or Facebook, James can be found exploring NASA, probing robotics labs, and getting behind-the-scenes with some of the Bay Area's most innovative thinkers.

 

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