Photos from SOFIA, NASA's Flying Telescope (Gallery)

SOFIA's First Southern Hemisphere Deployment

NASA / Carla Thomas

On the rain-soaked ramp at its deployment base at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand. NASA's SOFIA flying observatory is ready for a mission to study Southern Hemisphere celestial objects. This image was released July 18, 2013.

FIFI-LS Spectrometer Prepared for SOFIA Missions


Christian Fischer, from the University of Stuttgart's Institute for Space Systems, works on the Field-Imaging Far-Infrared Line Spectrometer, or FIFI-LS, in the NASA SOFIA science laboratory prior to testing in preparation for the first observing flights in spring 2014.

Spectrometer Prepared for SOFIA


Christian Fischer checks the FIFI-LS that is cooled by liquid nitrogen and helium during testing. The University of Stuttgart 3D spectrometer will investigate the interstellar medium and star formation regions of the Milky Way when installed in the SOFIA flying observatory.

SOFIA Cockpit and Crew

NASA / Carla Thomas

The cockpit of NASA's SOFIA 747SP is awash with instrumentation lights during one of nine Southern Hemisphere flights to study celestial objects visible in that region.

SOFIA Infrared Imagery of Comet ISON


Images of Comet ISON were obtained by SOFIA's FORCAST camera at wavelengths of 11.1, 19.7, and 31.5 microns. Measurements at 31.5 microns, crucial for determining the temperature and other characteristics of the comet's material, cannot be made using ground-based telescopes.

SOFIA: Cooling the GREAT Spectrometer

NASA / Carla Thomas

Christophe Risacher (left) and Karl Jacobs cool the GREAT spectrometer with a liquid cryogen in preparation for a flight of the SOFIA airborne observatory from Christchurch, New Zealand to study Southern Hemisphere celestial objects.

SOFIA Framed by Rainbow

NASA / Carla Thomas

NASA's SOFIA flying observatory is framed by a rainbow following a shower as it sits on a ramp at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand during its first Southern Hemisphere deployment. This image was released July 18, 2013.

SOFIA Image of Orion Nebula

SOFIA image: James De Buizer/NASA/DLR/USRA/DSI/FORCAST; Spitzer image: NASA/JPL

This image compares two infrared pictures of the heart of the Orion nebula captured by the FORCAST camera on the SOFIA airborne observatory's telescope with a wider image of the same area from NASA's Spitzer space telescope.

Jupiter in Infrared by SOFIA

NASA/SOFIA/USRA/FORCAST Team/James De Buizer (infrared image), Anthony Wesley (visible light image)

Infrared image of Jupiter from SOFIA’s First Light flight composed of individual images at wavelengths of 5.4 (blue), 24 (green) and 37 microns (red) made by Cornell University’s FORCAST camera. Ground-based infrared observations are impossible at 5.4 and 37 microns and normally very difficult at 24 microns even from high mountaintop observatories such as Mauna Kea due to absorption by water and other molecules in Earth's atmosphere. The white stripe in the infrared image is a region of relatively transparent clouds through which the warm interior of Jupiter can be seen.

Mid-Infrared Mosaic of Orion by SOFIA


Orion Messier 42 region: SOFIA mid-infrared (19 and 37 micron) mosaic image.

Quintuplet Cluster SOFIA Observation


Researchers using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have captured new images of a neighboring cluster of extremely luminous young stars embedded in dust cocoons.

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