Herschel/SPIRE Infrared Astronomy Schools Ask an Astronomer Media
A significant problem for infrared astronomy is that water absorbs infrared radiation extremely well. This is analogous to why a microwave oven very quickly heats the cheese on a pizza, but not its crust. Cheese contains more water and fat than the crust. Water molecules in the cheese absorb the energy of the microwaves, vibrating and moving about quickly. The cheese gets hot, finally melting. This is good for pizza-lovers, but not infrared astronomers.
Even though infrared radiation can easily travel billions of kilometers through the universe, it has nearly zero chance of reaching the surface of the earth, since the water in our atmosphere quickly absorbs it. Thus, infrared astronomers build their telescopes on the peaks of high mountains such as a Hawaii volcano or a high-plateau in the Chilean Andes, launch infrared observatories into the stratosphere (upper atmosphere) by balloon, or into space by rocket.  
Joint Astronomy Centre,
Mauna Kea.

The Canadian infrared astronomy community uses all three opportunities: the JCMT is an infrared telescope in Hawaii, which is funded by the UK, the Netherlands, and Canada. The BLAST project is an infrared camera on a high altitude balloon. Also, Canadian astronomers can apply for time on an infrared space observatory such as Spitzer or, in the future, Herschel.

Infrared Astronomy

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