Tag Archives: dark sky reserve

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 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 🙂

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