The Stratospheric Observatory for Infra-red Astronomy (SOFIA) returned to Christchurch for another observation mission on 23 June 2017 to conduct a number of research flights and study celestial objects in the Southern Hemisphere’s skies until its departure on 13 August 2017.
SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It comprises an infrared telescope of 2.7 metres in size, which has been mounted on a modified Boeing 747SP. This platform allows for flights at altitudes of 12 kilometres, where the protecting door slides open and makes it possible to receive infra-red radiation that remains hidden from telescopes on the ground.
During SOFIA’s deployment to New Zealand, 18 flights were conducted with two German science instruments, GREAT (German Receiver for Astronomy at Tetrahertz Frequencies) and FIFI-LS (Far-Infrared Field-Imaging Line Spectrometer), aboard the airborne observatory.
Ambassador Gerhard Thiedemann, US Ambassador Scott Brown and then Minister of Transport Simon Bridges each partook in one of the flights to observe the research activities carried out by a team of American and German scientists. SOFIA was accompanied to Christchurch by 36 German experts from DLR, the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, the University of Cologne and the Institute of Planetary Research of DLR in Berlin.
You can find more information on SOFIA HERE.