Friday, April 23, 2010

Nasa readies jumbo eye in the sky

Excerpt: The 40,000-pound (18,181kg) telescope assembly is housed behind a huge cavity door in the side of the jetliner.

"It is open to the atmosphere," explains Mr Meyer.

"There is nothing obscuring the view of the telescope itself; and on the cabin side of the bulkhead, the scientists can ride along in a shirt sleeve or airline type environment and make the astronomical measurements with science instruments that are installed on the telescope."

Nasa is completing the test flight stage of the project. The first science flights are due to take place next winter.

Sofia will explore the Universe in minute detail. It will investigate molecular clouds to find out how stars and planetary systems form.

Evidence will be sought that can help astronomers understand the origin of life by studying complex biogenic molecules. Scientists hope to learn how galaxies evolve with time by studying the dust and gas within them.

Sofia will also make measurements associated with comets and their characteristic tails. There is a
long-held theory that comets, colliding with Earth millions of years ago, may have brought water and other raw materials that made life on our planet possible. Read article here.

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