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Astronomers have a new eye in space, the airborne telescope known as the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA. Housed in a long-range aircraft, SOFIA is designed to be flown at an altitude of 15 kilometers, from where it can gaze out into space, unobstructed by the atmosphere.Many technical challenges had to be overcome to prevent vibrations or air turbulence from disturbing the measurements. SOFIA will be collecting data on the origins of planetary systems. Solar systems generally form amid thick clouds of particles – so SOFIA has been provided with an infrared eye to penetrate the cosmic dust.