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USRA collaborates with NASA's Ames Research Center to provide scientific leadership for SOFIA, deployed to New Zealand


USRA collaborates with NASA's Ames Research Center to provide the scientific and intellectual leadership for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

SOFIA arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand on June 6, 2016 to study the Southern Hemisphere skies for eight weeks. SOFIA will conduct 24 observing flights, using three instruments. The airborne observatory has an advantage over Earth-based observatories since it flies above 99% of the Earth's infrared-blocking water vapor and has an advantage over space-based observatories because it can carry heavier, more powerful instruments and they can be changed and upgraded to accommodate different types of observations. New Zealand offers conditions such as long and cold nights and low water vapour. Also, the location allows SOFIA to observe a part of the sky that cannot be viewed while deployed from SOFIA's usual base in Southern California.

USRA Director Erick Young inside the SOFIA aircraft while in New Zealand

SOFIA's Science mission Director, Erick Young, of Universities Space Research Association in front of the telescope inside the Flying Observatory in New Zealand. Credit: Joseph Johnson/Fairfax NZ

About USRA

Universities Space Research Association is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations. USRA engages the creativity and authoritative expertise of the research community to develop and deliver sophisticated, forward-looking solutions to Federal agencies and other government sponsors.