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SOFIA Mirror Cleaned in Preparation for Next Astronomy Missions
October 4, 2012

Technician cleaning SOFIA's mirrorHis work illuminated by a small flashlight in the darkened telescope cavity, a technician carefully squirts a solution of mild detergent and water as he washes the surface of the 2.5-meter diameter primary mirror on the SOFIA observatory's high-tech infrared telescope. (NASA Dryden video image)

The 2.5-meter mirror on NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy telescope was cleaned recently in preparation for its first full cycle of science observations.

Technician cleaning SOFIA's mirrorA technician's image is reflected by the 2.5-meter diameter primary mirror of the SOFIA observatory's high-tech infrared telescope as he carefully washes its surface during recent cleaning operations. (NASA Dryden video image) Because of the sensitive exposed optics, the telescope cavity of the heavily modified 747 is designed to serve as a clean room. Even in the clean environment, contamination of the optics builds up over time.

While the aircraft and its systems were upgraded this summer at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., telescope technicians used water, a mild detergent and a small filtered blower to remove dust and other material that had adhered to the mirror's surface.

The mirror cleaning was in preparation for the next astronomy observation period, known as Cycle 1, which will begin in November 2012 and continue through December 2013.

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