Is it all clear, SOFIA?

This post is a little off topic from my previous post, but only a little. It still concerns the collection of data and the keeping of records.   These records are on an astronomical scale. And they are gathered and analysed by beautiful, sophisticated SOFIA and friends.

We went to visit SOFIA today because the sun was shining, and it was a perfect day for visiting and gallivanting. Here she is. Isn’t she stunning?

Sofia

Sofia

SOFIA is stationed at Christchurch International Airport for a couple of weeks. She  is on a surveillance exercise. Of the skies. This is an excerpt from Nasa’s website on SOFIA.

‘NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory will be based in New Zealand for the next two weeks, taking advantage of the Southern Hemisphere’s orientation to study celestial objects that are difficult or impossible to see in the northern sky.

SOFIA, formally known as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, deployed to the United States Antarctic Program’s facilities at Christchurch International Airport last week and completed its first science flight at 4 a.m. local time July 18 (noon EDT July 17). A team of scientists, engineers, pilots and technicians from the United States and Germany are deployed with SOFIA to support as many as nine research flights through Aug. 1.

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that carries a telescope with an effective diameter of 100 inches (250 centimeters). It provides astronomers access to the visible, infrared and submillimeter spectrum.’ You can access the full text Here

Now I can’t say I understand all that technical stuff , but I can say that I enjoyed admiring  SOFIA and imagining what it would be like to fly so high in the sky with a telescope.

If you want to have a small experience,  flying with SOFIA, check out the SOFIA movie gallery  Here.

Apparently, the people who know these things, say we have very clear skies in our part of the world. Which makes our skies an excellent research area for SOFIA. Our skies are so good  that we are home to one of the best dark sky reserves in the world.  It’s too far from Christchurch for me to take you there, today, so this link will have to do. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/7074544/Southern-skies-get-starlight-reserve-status)

I can, however, show you the luminous, light blue sky over us, and SOFIA, this afternoon.

Clear and Blue

Clear and Blue

It surprises me that the sky does look so fresh and pure because the air pollution levels  have exceeded  health guidelines levels  at least 11 times  in Christchurch this winter. Perhaps the blue of the  sky today is an optical illusion.

Writing of smog and lenses and illusion reminds me that some wits in the media have been questioning the timing of the SOFIA project in Christchurch. It coincides very neatly with the Government’s attempts to expand the  Government Communications Security Bureau ‘s  legal powers to spy on us, its own New Zealand citizens. At the moment the GCSB  may spy on  non New Zealanders.  The amendment under debate will legalise the GCSB’s spying on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

I am 99% sure SOFIA is an innocent star-gazer but that is a mighty big telescope scoping our southern skies.  However, as long as she  is gazing upwards and outwards, little ol’ me  and the rest of my fellow Kiwis,  can rest easy, at least as far as SOFIA is concerned 🙂

© silkannthreades

Advertisements

48 thoughts on “Is it all clear, SOFIA?

  1. Pingback: Welcome, stars of the New Year | silkannthreades

  2. utesmile

    Interesting, I thought I saw the German flag on the plane. Lucky you can see her/it whatever ever she is. I am sure there are lots more of observation things around we do not know about, but hey we mustn’t be put of by it, it is our life to life if they watch or not. Lovely pictures!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      You are right Ute. You can see the German flag. It is a joint venture. I would quite like to be seen by SOFIA; it would make me feel like a STAR.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Now I am beginning to wonder how much publicity she gets on her home turf! Do you hear about the US Antarctic Program which has a base here in our city?

      Reply
      1. Sheryl

        I get busy and can easily miss things, but my sense is that she gets very little publicity here.

        I know that the US is involved in some kind of research in Antarctica–but I didn’t know that there was a base for it in New Zealand.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I think the reason we know more about it is that in a little city like ours it is such a big event. There is so much else happening in the US that SOFIA would scarcely be a blip on the news radar.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I wonder! I think their fascination with the stars and their understanding of them would have them all climbing on board to find out more. They were pioneers and adventurers, all. The great story of travelling with and by the stars is still with us and a continuing source of inspiration for humankind.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I hadn’t heard of SOFIA either before last week. But I am glad I know about ‘her’ now. The cooperative nature of ‘her’ mission and research makes me feel hopeful about the world.

      Reply
  3. ordinarygood

    Gazing upwards right now instead of considering the deep innards of the earth and its tectonic plates was very welcome as I read your post. I believe we do have very clear skies in New Zealand – Lake Tekapo offers wonderful dark skies to star gaze.
    Let’s hope mankind does not harm space as we have managed to do to so many other parts of our planet and air supply.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes! I can see how that would be so right now. I , too, hope we can be more respectful of space than we have been of earth. I would say that SOFIA’s exploration is relatively benign but we are not always careful as we should be when researching new ideas and new frontiers. Thinking here about the nuclear testing in the Pacific!

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you 🙂 I wish I could find a schedule of SOFIA’s flights so I could go watch the take off and landing. Though there might not be an exact schedule as trips may be determined by weather and atmospheric conditions. However, I suppose there will be a movie of these trips on the NASA website at some stage.

      Reply
  4. mmmarzipan

    Interesting! My husband and I were **just** talking about space exploration, etc tonight. He is distantly related to Buzz Aldrin and has been reading his autobiography. Hope you had a great SOFIA visit! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      We did; it sent my thoughts to stratospheric heights.:) Space is fun but I am rather like my feet on the ground. What fun to have ‘personal ‘connections to Buzz Aldrin.

      Reply
  5. melodylowes

    Hmmm. with all of the news about governments spying on their citizens, this leaves me somewhat uneasy. Technology my be the eat of us yet… Interesting that you have such a clear sky, despite pollution levels. Glad to see all the beautiful blue! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Isn’t blue so pleasing to our senses? As we have seen in your beautiful photos of blue flowers. Canada has, I believe, a number of designated dark sky reserves/parks or areas where the sky is perfect for star gazing. The Canadian International Dark Sky reserve, such as we have south of us, is here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_M%C3%A9gantic_Observatory. I am sure you see some lovely night skies. If we keep looking to the heavens, we shouldn’t have time to spy on each other 🙂

      Reply
      1. melodylowes

        Our yard has some terrific views of the Milky way at night… and yes, if we keep busy looking at all the right things, we will forget to play Bond with our fellow creatures. 🙂

        Reply
        1. melodylowes

          I have some night sky ones – but if I have some of the Milky Way, I’m pretty forgetful! 🙂 You have hrown down the gauntlet, Madam – I consider it a challenge!

  6. Forest So Green

    I think astronomy is very interesting and it would be fun to know the research being done by the scientists.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I think the SOFIA is keen to share with educators and researchers; it’s as much a PR exercise as a research one. Astronomy, or the stars, have fascinated us, humankind, for ever, hasn’t it?

      Reply
  7. tiny lessons blog

    She’s pretty and impressive, SOFIA, I want to trust she likes to gaze at the stars rather than us humans. Never seen her “live” but when the shuttle program was still active we used to be able to see the shuttle climbing up – right from our bedroom window here on the other side of Florida….those things are quite fascinating explorations.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      How exciting to see the shuttle. I think SOFIA is above board and honourable, and I am in awe of the minds that bring these exploratory missions into existence.

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          We are fine in Christchurch, but I feel sorry for those in Wellington and at the top of the South Island. The aftershocks seem to be every minute or so. I know how that feels and it is not at all pleasant; anxiety levels will be high.

        2. Gallivanta Post author

          There are no casualties or serious damage in Wellington, thank goodness. But people are taking precautions whilst the aftershocks continue.

        3. tiny lessons blog

          Thanks for letting me know you’re fine. Thank God for no casualties or serous damage. I understand there is anxiety when the aftershocks continue. I have only experienced an earthquake twice, a rare one in Zambia and another rare one in Washington D.C., both a little weaker than what you had.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      She’s a reasonably new kid on the block but certainly worth a visit if she does stop in your neighbourhood. I tried to get a better photo and view from the other side of the airport but there was no place to park the car thanks to parking restrictions around the US Antarctic Program buildings..

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          That is the strange thing; she doesn’t appear to be really. But perhaps the security is just not obvious to an innocent like me.

  8. YellowCable

    Thank you for sharing. SOFIA looks great. With an air borne complex scientific station as her, it is going to be hard to to imagine other things she can do 😉

    Reply
  9. Shakti Ghosal

    I always thought NASA was all about space and the exploration of the universe. Since when have they started looking a the geology of earth?

    Be as it may, you are one of the lucky folks ( outside the US) to have seen a NASA vehicle close up like this.

    Shakti

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s