Planetary Radio • Sep 08, 2015

Flying High on SOFIA

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On This Episode


The crew, scientists, engineers, educators and other aboard SOFIA

Planetary Radio returns to SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, but this time we fly in the giant 747 turned telescope platform. It was a night to remember. Emily Lakdawalla has the lowdown on New Horizons’ tiny 2019 target far beyond Pluto. Bill Nye looks back at five years as leader of the Planetary Society. Bruce Betts joins Mat Kaplan at more than 40,000 feet for a very high edition of What’s Up.

SOFIA in flight
SOFIA in flight With the sliding door over its 17-ton infrared telescope wide open, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) soars over California's snow-covered Southern Sierras.Image: NASA / Jim Ross

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This week's prizes are a fabulous Planetary Radio t-shirt and a beautiful ChopShop Store historic robotic spacecraft poster!

This week's question:

SOFIA’s telescope has an effective diameter of 2.5 meters, but it’s actually somewhat larger than that. What is the actual diameter of its mirror?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Tuesday, September 15th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What moon in our solar system is closest in size to Earth’s moon (besides Earth’s moon)?


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:

What Mars lander or landers were imaged under their parachutes by orbiters as they descended to the surface?


Phoenix and Curiosity were imaged by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as they descended to the Martian surface under parachutes.