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SOFIA Saved:

Andrew Lawler of Science Magazine reports that NASA's SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) is now "off the chopping block." NASA's budget for 2007 forced cutbacks on key programs including SOFIA, but researchers from both the United States and Germany strongly protested the cuts. NASA's chief, Michael Griffin, told scientists in a July 6 meeting in Washington D.C. that SOFIA would continue to operate despite cost overruns and engineering delays.

SOFIA is a 2.5 meter telescope flown within a modified 747. Observations will be carried out at an altitude of 41,000 feet. At this altitude, the atmosphere is more transparent to mid and far infrared wavelengths (MIR/FIR) - specifically 0.3 microns to 1.6 mm. The targets of research will be interstellar clouds, proto-planetary disks, origins of biogenic atoms (organic compounds found within interstellar dust clouds), planetary atmospheric studies, stellar formation, study of the center of our galaxy, and ultra-luminous galaxies in the early Universe.


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