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NASA Space Science

SOFIA Sees Jupiter's Ancient Heat 59

astroengine writes "The flying telescope SOFIA took its maiden flight on Wednesday, and its 'first light' images have already been released. The cool thing about SOFIA is that it flies high enough (integrated inside a converted 747, taking it to an altitude of 41,000 ft) to carry it above 99% of the atmosphere's infrared-absorbing water vapor. This means it can collect 80% of the IR radiation that hits orbital telescopes (like NASA's Spitzer) but without the huge cost of being launched into space. Also, SOFIA is expected to last 20 years, many times the operational lifespan of space missions. Already, SOFIA has returned stunning results, including the observation of heat leaking through Jupiter's clouds, heat that was generated billions of years ago when the gas giant was forming."
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SOFIA Sees Jupiter's Ancient Heat

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  • Cheaper astronomy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by videoBuff ( 1043512 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @12:00PM (#32397444)
    IT never fails to amaze me that NASA does not send a balloon to 100,000 feet and load it up with all kinds of scientific equipment. That way, they would have advantages of being almost in space, but for a fraction of the cost of sending anything in space.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @12:10PM (#32397520) Homepage

    Well, according to the WP page on clear air turbulence []: "Clear air turbulence[1] weather, sometimes colloquially referred to as "air pockets", is the erratic movement of air masses in the absence of any visual cues, such as clouds. Clear-air turbulence is caused when bodies of air moving at widely different speeds meet; at high altitudes of around 7,000-12,000 metres (23,000-39,000 ft)". I guess at 41000 feet this means they pass above most turbulence. Having been aboard some jumbojets I must say they appear very stable under normal flight, you probably need more stabilizers than on the ground but even there it's windy and such.

  • by masterwit ( 1800118 ) * on Sunday May 30, 2010 @12:33PM (#32397716) Journal

    Yes, for all the bad press NASA may have received in its past, there have been at least a few outstanding feats achieved by the program, the Hubble being one of these.

    In 1990 the Hubble space telescope was launched and put successfully into orbit, and with a few extremely successful "service missions" has allowed us insight to the universe in many ways we might have not seen otherwise (at least for a while!): We have gained understanding how are universe is expanding and the rate at which it is expanding largely due to the contributions of the telescope, we have established the presence (observable!) of black holes, and much more!

    To really answer your question however and reiterate the AC's comment on a mission's length, you just don't plan for those type of life-cycles - yes every hardware piece's MTBF may be long, but when averaged together, honestly a car analogy will do best: after 200,000 miles in the vehicle, it usually makes sense to just get a new car instead of deal with the innumerable repairs.

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!