Ambassadors tour NASA's airborne observatory SOFIA

  • 18/07/2015

The United States and German ambassadors to New Zealand have toured NASA's airborne observatory SOFIA in Christchurch.

SOFIA is several weeks into a deployment in Christchurch from where it is making a number of missions to explore southern hemisphere skies.

US ambassador Mark Gilbert and German ambassador Anne-Marie Schleich visited the joint US-German astronomical research project on Friday.

They were taken on board and Mr Gilbert said it was "fantastic".

"TY Ed Harmon @NASA 4 special tour," he tweeted - sharing photos from the visit.

The airborne observatory consists of a large telescope mounted inside a modified Boeing 747SP, which flies at altitudes of up to 13,700 metres.

SOFIA made its first trip to Christchurch in 2013 and is expected to make more visits to New Zealand over 20 years.

Scientists are hoping the flights will help them to understand more about the development of galaxies and the formation and evolution of stars and planetary systems from interstellar clouds of gas and dust.