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The Big Picture: NASA flies massive SOFIA telescope to the stratosphere

05
Jul
2014

Its a catch-22: the lenses of ground-based telescopes can be made huge, but are hamstrung by distortion from the atmosphere. Hubble-type telescopes dont have that issue, but must be small to be launched into space, and good luck fixing them. Thats where NASAs SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) comes in: by sticking a 17-ton telescope into a Boeing 747, you can launch it up to 45,000 feet and get past 99 percent of our atmospheres water vapor.

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