The High-speed Imaging Photometer for Occultation, or HIPO, instrument was installed on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy telescope Nov. 17 to support a study of the telescope's optical performance.
Image right: The SOFIA airborne observatory's 2.5-meter infrared telescope peers out from its cavity in the SOFIA rear fuselage during nighttime line operations testing. NASA Photos / Tom Tschida
HIPO takes images of the solar system rapidly at wavelengths the human eye can see. The instrument was designed to observe stellar occultations. This occurs when a star serves as a small probe of the atmospheric structure of a solar system object or the surface density structure of a planetary ring or comet. HIPO, built for the SOFIA at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., will remain on the telescope through mid-December. Nighttime telescope activities using HIPO are scheduled for the week of Nov. 24.
Seven nights of ground-based telescope operations without astronomy instruments were completed Nov. 15 on the aircraft ramp at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility, Palmdale, Calif. Technicians and scientists obtained more experience with the telescope while testing a number of functions, including star tracking.
Image right: The Lowell Observatory's High-speed Imaging Photometer for Occultation rests on its dolly in the lab prior to installation on the SOFIA airborne observatory.
As the aircraft prepares for late winter open-door flights, the SOFIA engineering and maintenance team has completed instrumentation for the aperture, with installation and actuator testing scheduled for later this month. The upper rigid door testing with its actuator was also planned for the week of Nov. 17.
NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are developing the SOFIA as a world-class observatory, complementing the visible-range Hubble Space Telescope and other future ground and space-based visible-light and infrared telescopes. Once operational, SOFIA will be the world's primary airborne infrared observatory for up to two decades, as well as an outstanding laboratory for developing and testing instrumentation and detector technology.
Image right: Scientists carefully examine data being received during nighttime line operations testing of the SOFIA airborne observatory's 2.5-meter infrared telescope.
Systems integration and flight test operations on the highly modified SOFIA Boeing 747SP aircraft are being conducted by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. The SOFIA science and mission operations are managed jointly by the Universities Space Research Association and the Deutsches SOFIA Institut, and are based at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.