© Nicolas BAKER/IRAP/NASA/CNRS Photothèque
Boeing 747 SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), equipped with a telescope whose mirror measures 2.5 m in diameter. This aircraft converted into a flying observatory is stationed, with other NASA aircraft, in a 19,500-m²hangar in Palmdale California. It flies by night at high altitude (up to approximately 14 km) to observe the stars in infrared from the stratosphere. During this mission in February 2017, SOFIA enabled observation of the Orion Nebula, the region nearest to the solar system in which massive stars form. A map of Orion will thus be produced to characterise the dynamics of gases from observations of carbon ion emissions, very abundant in regions of star formation. SOFIA is also equipped with the GREAT instrument that converts the light collected by the telescope into scientific data.