Friday, June 10, 2011

NASA Dryden Tweetup


It's rare for me to post two photograph galleries in a row... but then it's also rare to visit two NASA centers in a row! I guess this could be considered Tweetup #4, since it merited a trip out into the Wild, Wild West... or perhaps simply Tweetup Three-And-A-Half, being that it piggy-backed onto the JPL media events.

NASA Dryden Airborne Operation Facility
The NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) is spread across the California desert, on Edwards Air Force Base (AFB). Along with 13 others, I went to Palmdale, home of the NASA Dryden Airborne Operation Facility (DAOF) to board SOFIA!

Not just your average jumbo jet! The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy is a joint project between NASA and DLR, the German Aerospace Center… and if you didn't truly know how cool airborne astronomy can be, now is your chance to click and see.

Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy
Why would anyone put a 2.5 meter telescope onto a Boeing 747, you may ask? Well, SOFIA is optimized for observations at infrared wavelengths that cannot be accessed by any telescope on the ground or currently in space.

Unlike ground-based telescopes, SOFIA can rise to 45,000 feet during her missions, well above most of the water vapor in the atmosphere that restrict terrestrial capabilities of gathering crisp images in certain wavelength ranges. Also, unlike large telescopes in orbit, she can fly home after each trip for repairs, parts and regular maintenance.

THAT... is what a 17-ton, inertially-stabilized 2.5 meter telescope integrated into a pressure bulkhead looks like. That monstrous beauty consists of many parts: the GREAT spectrometer, the FORCAST (Faint Object InfraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope), the Fast Diagnostic Camera and the Focal Plane Imager, among others.

Yes, another day – another case of acronym overload!

For the entire picture set of the fuselage, science stations, telescope, spectrometer and scientists, see my Picasa Galleries And of course also visit the SOFIA galleries as well, to see what amazing images this special airborne observatory has already provided. Science just does not get any sexier than this!