Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SOFIA Observatory Observes Massive Star Formation

Researchers using the airborne SOFIA have observed the most detailed infrared images yet of a

massive star condensing within a dense cloud of dust and gas.

The star,  commonly known as G35. It is one of the most massive known of its' type and is located  8,000 light-years from Earth.

As fantastic as this discovery is, the SOFIA platform is even more interesting.

SOFIA started its' life as a 747 wide body built in 1977 and delivered to Pan American Airways where it remained a commercial carrier for pan am until 86 when United purchased the plane keeping it flying until 1995 when United moved the plane to storage.

In 1997 the plane was purchased by Universities Space Research Association for use as an airborne observatory.  NASA purchased the platform from USRA in the same year.

In 1998, Raytheon designed and installed an 18  by 13.5 foot wide  door in the aft port side of the aircraft's fuselage.  This door can be opened in-flight to give  access to the sky.  Access in this instance comes in the form of a 2.5-meter  infrared  reflector telescope, which has an over-sized, 2.7 meter diameter primary mirror.

There is much more at NASA and at Wikipedia

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