NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope to study the universe at infrared wavelengths that cannot be detected from ground-based observatories. SOFIA’s Science Cycle 5, which runs from February 2017 through January 2018, spans the entire field of astronomy from planetary science to extragalactic investigations.
Surrounding the black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy and stretching out to about 700 light-years, is a dense zone of activity called the Central Molecular Zone (CMZ). It contains many dense molecular clouds that would normally be expected to produce new stars, but which are instead eerily desolate. Where did the CMZ come from? No place else in the Milky Way is remotely like it.