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NASASOFIA162 karma

Many women work on SOFIA. Here is one of our Mission Directors, Nancy, leading a SOFIA flight. https://www.facebook.com/187095228001013/photos/pb.187095228001013.-2207520000.1444244813./891019604275235/?type=3&theater They were able to get cool jobs at NASA by studying science!

NASASOFIA156 karma

We have a number of instruments that are fully operational now with more currently undergoing commissioning and development.

Some of the instruments available now have access to portions of the spectrum that are unavailable with any other facility. For example, the FORCAST instrument covers the infrared portion of the spectrum from 5-40 microns, much of which is inaccessible from the ground and will be unavailable to currently planned missions such as JWST. Similarly, instruments coming online such as FIFI-LS and HAWC+ will provide access to wavelengths and capabilities unavailable on any current or planned space missions.

In addition, NASA recently released a call for a third generation of instruments, in order to push the boundaries of what we can do with SOFIA as a platform.


I was always interested in science fiction, which inspired my interest in the sciences and in learning about the world around me. But I didn't start out in college on the science track, I started out as an Art History major. As is typical for a liberal arts education, though, I took an introductory course in astronomy. It was a fascinating course and I was astounded by the magnitude of the Universe and the diversity of environments out there to explore. I just fell in love with the subject and dove in head first! - Dr. Helton


Earth's atmosphere is filled with water vapor that is very good at absorbing infrared radiation. But by going to the stratosphere, we rise above more than 99% of the atmospheric water vapor allowing us a much clearer view of the heavens.

In addition, by putting the telescope in an aircraft, we can execute our observations more cheaply than with a space-born platform. And since we return to Earth after each flight, we can upgrade our instrumentation and fix any issues that might arise rather than relying on risky service missions.


SOFIA is an aircraft, we are always flying within Earth's atmosphere. But we fly higher than most commercial aircraft, at 38,000- 45,000 feet above sea level.