NASA’s Flying telescope


  • NASA’s flying observatory Sofia is preparing for its 2018 campaign, which will include, among others, observations of celestial magnetic fields, star-forming regions, comets and Saturn’s giant moon Titan.
  • This will be the fourth year of full operations for Sofia, short for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, with observations planned between February 2018 and January 2019.


  • Scientists believe that the observatory’s investigations will help them understand how magnetic fields affect the rate at which interstellar clouds condense to form new stars.
  • These observations could also help them learn whether the luminosity of these active black holes is driven by star formation or accretion of material onto the central black hole.
  • Sofia will also conduct observations to better understand how methane levels change with seasons on Mars.
  • Sofia is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope.
  • It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Centre, DLR.
  • SOFIA is designed to observe the infrared universe.
  • SOFIA studies many different kinds of astronomical objects and phenomena, but some of the most interesting are:
  • Star birth and death.
  • Formation of new solar systems.
  • Identification of complex molecules in space.
  • Planets, comets and asteroids in our solar system.
  • Nebulae and dust in galaxies (or, Ecosystems of galaxies).
  • Black holes at the center of galaxies.

Fodder Points:

  • Water vapor blocks infrared light energy and 99% of the world’s water vapor exists below 39,000 feet. So, the higher altitude you fly, the drier it gets and the more optimal it is for infrared observation.

Source:Indian Express

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