Home SCIENCE NASA’s Boeing 747 Is The World’s Biggest Flying Telescope

NASA’s Boeing 747 Is The World’s Biggest Flying Telescope

To get the best space observations possible, NASA scientists fly around the world in a highly modified 747 carrying a giant telescope.NASA has converted a 747 jumbo jet into a flying telescope. The Stratospheric Observatory of Infrared Astronomy flies high above the clouds to capture information about the stars.

image credit: wikipedia

SOFIA is equipped with a reflecting telescope with an effective diameter of 100 inches—the same size as the Hooker Telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory that Edwin Hubble used to demonstrate that the universe is expanding.

Situated behind a retractable awning at the back of the plane, the telescope is gyro-stabilized and pneumatically and hydraulically isolated from the rest of the plane, in order to keep it level in spite of the microturbulence of everyday flight.


Flying at an altitude of 39,000 to 45,000 feet means the telescope is above 99 percent of the water in the atmosphere, giving it a far better view than similar ground-based observatories.