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53

This has been done. SOFIA is an infrared observatory built into a Boeing 747 SP: SOFIA takes advantage of the fact that some infrared bands are visible at atltitude, these are attenuated by water in the atmosphere so they're less visible on the ground. There have been infrared observatories before SOFIA: The first use of an aircraft for performing ...


11

As others have pointed out, SOFIA does exactly this. The USAF has done some work with airborne telescopes. I believe the US Navy has as well. I can only assume the Russians did during the years of the Soviet Union and perhaps continue to do so. Not sure about anyone else. Why the military? For imaging satellites and the like. For the most part, airborne ...


9

The other answers don't seem to stress one advantage of snakes telescopes on a plane; that of rapid movement and portability! Here are examples of IR viewed by a telescope on a plane other than SOFIA, and observation using SOFIA's plane but not it's large IR telescope! The questions Why the thermal imaging of Mercury's surface requires a telescope on a jet ...


9

At the risk of self-plagiarism: (https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/532568/43351 with a bit added). Molecular chemistry in the early universe requires species with bound electrons. Helium hydride is the first molecule to form because neutral helium atoms, formed about 120,000 years after the big bang, could combine with plentiful protons; but it was another ...


8

SOFIA (as described in @Hobbes answer) is currently the only astronomical telescope mounted on a plane. It does overcome some problems with the Earth's atmosphere and circumvents the huge costs and extreme environmental conditions of a space telescope, but it comes with a whole host of other difficulties! The plane can only take off and land in certain ...


6

In addition to the above examples, a telescope was once mounted in a Concorde for viewing a total eclipse. The speed of the aircraft allowed it to stay in the zone of totality for an extended period of time. The airplane's cruising altitude of around 60,000 ft. (half again as high as subsonic commercial jets) also reduced the absorption of light by the ...


4

Pluto is actually smaller in diameter than Triton, and is also farther away, meaning that Triton covers roughly 1.4x (according to WA) the angle that Pluto does, making occultation that much more probable apriori, ignoring their actual orbits. In addition to the above, New Horizons recently observed Pluto's atmosphere with far more detail than what we can ...


3

You asked for arguments against this, but I don't think there are any other than money. Consider the AN/SPQ-11 passive radar that was aboard the US Navy ship Observation Island. The actual receiver area is not as large (7M according to https://fas.org/irp/program/collect/cobra_judy.htm), but we could imagine a larger antenna being placed on a larger ship ...


3

Molecular clouds are the birthing grounds from which stars form, which occurs when said clouds undergo a collapse. They contain a significant fraction of molecular hydrogen ($H_2$), and are generally good places for forming other stable molecules. Molecules and metallicity generally make star formation easier by making it easier to get the non-molecular ...


2

The GREAT receiver attached to SOFIA to detect far-infrared radiation incorporates elements reminiscent of both radio and optical detectors, but since it works by mixing a signal from a tunable oscillator with the oscillating field from the incoming radiation rather than by the photoelectric effect as in most optical detectors, you might consider it more ...


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