His 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)
SOFIA Mirror Cleaned in Preparation for Next Astronomy Missions
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.
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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NASA Dryden Flight Research Center