Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)

Flyaway

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Both the aircraft & instruments are going in for routine servicing & update in Germany. The aircraft servicing is being done by Lufthansa Technik & instruments by the German SOFIA institute.


View: https://twitter.com/SOFIA_DSI/status/1313441315292672005
 

Archibald

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Maybe SOFIA pushed too far, when compared to the older KAO ?
 

Flyaway

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Announcement of lunar science results from SOFIA.

I’ve posted something about this in the Artemis thread as it seems related to that program as well.
 

TomS

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Yeah, a lot of articles have focussed on the "news about the moon" part and glossed over the specific platform, so I figured I'd highlight it here.

Good to have both, I think,.
 

Flyaway

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Yeah, a lot of articles have focussed on the "news about the moon" part and glossed over the specific platform, so I figured I'd highlight it here.

Good to have both, I think,.
Must be something related to making the Moon easier for human exploration I reckon, rather than they’ve found Moon men!
 

TomS

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I'm assuming lunar water ice, because it's the sort of thing SOFIA would be good at seeing. Plus that's the research topic of the scientist presenting the discovery.
 

Archibald

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Hmmm... time for SOFIA to "redeem" itself after the scathing recent report... I wonder if it 100% a coincidence.

Bean counters "SOFIA sucks - can't produce enough good science, cost an arm and a leg"

NASA "SOFIA just helped confirm lunar water - making it useful to future Artemis missions ! Don't screw it !"
 

Flyaway

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Hmmm... time for SOFIA to "redeem" itself after the scathing recent report... I wonder if it 100% a coincidence.

Bean counters "SOFIA sucks - can't produce enough good science, cost an arm and a leg"

NASA "SOFIA just helped confirm lunar water - making it useful to future Artemis missions ! Don't screw it !"
TBH I couldn’t help thinking the same thing when I first heard about this.
 

TomS

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I'm assuming lunar water ice, because it's the sort of thing SOFIA would be good at seeing. Plus that's the research topic of the scientist presenting the discovery.

And confirmed. SOFIA specifically was able to confirm water rather than hydroxyl (-OH radical), ruling out the unlikely possibility that the previous water detections came from other hydroxyl-bearing compounds, rather than actual water:

 

Archibald

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And guess where did they found water ? in Clavius crater ! The one where they found the monolith, in 2001. Amusing coincidence. Maybe they will found a black monolith there someday, looking for water...
 

The Artist

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And guess where did they found water ? in Clavius crater ! The one where they found the monolith, in 2001. Amusing coincidence. Maybe they will found a black monolith there someday, looking for water...
Clavius was the base where we saw the Aries IV land. The site with the Monolith was designated TMA-1 for Tyco Magnetic Abnormality - 1. Remember these in that scene in the Moonbus? But, maybe that works better. With water nearby, that location (Clavius) becomes a considered location to build a base.
 

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Archibald

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D'ooh ! you are right of course !! the monolith was at Tycho, not Clavius. Silly me.
 

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Very sad news, but I can see NASAs point of shutting down SOFIA because of Hubble and Chandra, plus the soon to be launched James Webb Space Telescope will encroach on to SOFIAs main mission that of infrared astronomy.
 

Flyaway

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FighterJock

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View: https://twitter.com/MSMN817/status/1512261595493249024


@SOFIAtelescope personnel were informed that the program will not be funded in the next fiscal year. Airborne Astronomy by the world’s largest flying telescope is over at the end of September.
@NASAPlanes @WatcherCtp Only got 11 good years of flying. ✈️

Sad that SOFIA will not get funding for the next year, looks like that it is going to be the end of an era as far as airborne astronomy is concerned. R.I.P SOFIA. :(
 

Flyaway

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View: https://twitter.com/MSMN817/status/1512261595493249024


@SOFIAtelescope personnel were informed that the program will not be funded in the next fiscal year. Airborne Astronomy by the world’s largest flying telescope is over at the end of September.
@NASAPlanes @WatcherCtp Only got 11 good years of flying. ✈️

Sad that SOFIA will not get funding for the next year, looks like that it is going to be the end of an era as far as airborne astronomy is concerned. R.I.P SOFIA. :(
The problem as I understand it is a unique variant of an already limited variant of the 747. Apparently it’s electrics system is very problematic and needs a lot of time for maintenance meaning that its actual flight hours each month are quite limited. Apparently it even flys with the telescope inoperable. Plus the telescope itself the science can now be done by others, it no longer is unique. At the end of the day the science produced is far from sufficient considering its costs.
 

Archibald

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Yep 747SP was a rare breed of 747 overall, a bit of evolutionary dead end.

I often wonder whether they didn't pushed a little too far (too big the telescope, on a 747 no less, with that enormous door) with SOFIA, after Kuiper Airborne Observatory. Which never got any issues of that kind.
They started with a Learjet in 1968 (did wonders) then KAO was fine too, but SOFIA seems to have been more controversial right from 1996.
 

publiusr

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Now here is where it may shine in a second life. Flying above severe storms with simpler optics? It could get really good tornado photos. Worlds biggest U2 replacement? There must be some other use.
 

TomS

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Now here is where it may shine in a second life. Flying above severe storms with simpler optics? It could get really good tornado photos. Worlds biggest U2 replacement? There must be some other use.

Why must there? If, as people have mentioned, part of the problem is difficulty keeping the unusual 747SP airframe operational, why bother? If you want cloud-top imagery, we get really good shots from satellites these days.
 

Archibald

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A pity they can't pass it to a foreign space agency.
 

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Now here is where it may shine in a second life. Flying above severe storms with simpler optics? It could get really good tornado photos. Worlds biggest U2 replacement? There must be some other use.

SOFIA can't look below the aircraft, so you'd have to fly in a tight circle. Or do another costly rebuild to install cameras below the main deck. Geostationary weather satellites already provide 24/7 coverage in great detail (whole-hemisphere imaging at 10k*10k pixels, 500 m/pixel, plus options for detail imaging). And I'm under the impression tornadoes form and dissipate on a timescale of minutes, when it could take a 747 hours to prep, take off, and fly to the area.
 

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A pity they can't pass it to a foreign space agency.
The science return is too small and the cost too high for the best-funded space agency in the world. Nobody else will want to bother with an observatory that only provides science for 16 hours/month.
 

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SOFIA is one of those efforts with that special combination of altruistic and impractical that puts me in a good mood, so sad to see the project come to an end. Plus that airframe is somehow endearing.
 

publiusr

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It is. If the optics are removed, perhaps it can have new life as an ultra long distance courier of sorts. A shame to see it at a boneyard…the strongest airframe out there should be good for *something*
 

Flyaway

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SOFIA is now officially concluded as DLR has agreed to its termination as well as NASA.

 

Archibald

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f6c.jpg


It may be preserved at the Pima aviation museum, which would be a nice thing.
 

Archibald

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There is seemingly nothing a 747 can't do, except perhaps loopings or flying to the Moon...
 

aim9xray

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I do hope that it goes to a museum Archibald, I would not like it if SOFIA goes straight to the desert Boneyard in Arizona.
They could park it next to ABL
Thought ABL was scrapped, due to the reported exorbitant expense of having to having to purge the laser plumbing systems of the methyleythlbadstuff.
 

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Thought ABL was scrapped, due to the reported exorbitant expense of having to having to purge the laser plumbing systems of the methyleythlbadstuff.
The insides probably so, there are plenty of pictures of the airframe out at DM all taped up.
 

Archibald

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They can't even salvage the telescope because its IR wavelength works at 45000 ft but not on the ground. Too heavy for a balloon as for "a very tall mountain"... not even close.
And it is not space hardened either.
 

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They can't even salvage the telescope because its IR wavelength works at 45000 ft but not on the ground. Too heavy for a balloon as for "a very tall mountain"... not even close.
And it is not space hardened either.

That’s sad news, I did not know that they could not salvage the telescope. A one of a kind telescope.
 

Archibald

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Well that's my limited understanding of IR telescopes, I'm certainly not pretending to be an expert.
What I came to understand is that IR spectrum is pretty wide.
- some (very) narrow IR wavelength windows are usable from the ground, the atmosphere allows that.
- the rest of the IR spectrum is essentially screwed by Earth thick and wet atmosphere.
- it takes at least 40 000 ft high for the atmosphere to get thin enough (I think water vapor is a giant PITA)
- so balloons, 747, Learjets, C-141s, DC-8s, CV-990 - whatever can fly high enough
- or in-space (IRAS to Webb, Spitzer, plenty others).
 
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