PETER MENZEL / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PETER MENZEL / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Airborne infrared astronomy. Astronomers working at a control desk inside the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO). The red object just left of centre is the prime focus of the KAO's 90-cm infrared telescope, to which a variety of instruments may be fixed. The KAO is a converted Lockheed C-141A Starlifter aircraft. Cruising at up to 12,500 metres, the KAO flies above most of the atmospheric water vapour which absorbs far- infrared radiation and prevents ground-based far- IR astronomy. The aircraft, operated by NASA, made its first observing flight in January 1974. The astronomers are Jacqueline Davidson (left), and Alan Meyer (centre).
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