- Recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the end of operations of its observatory Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) mission.
- It is a joint program between NASA and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), and is a telescope capable of making observations from onboard an aeroplane.
- It is a 2.7-meter infrared telescope sitting inside a Boeing 747SP aeroplane, flying at an altitude of 38,000-45,000 feet above the surface.
- It is globally unique and, with the start of regular operations in 2014.
- It has been successfully used for scientific research during a total of approximately 800 flights.
- It was designed to observe cosmic objects in far-infrared wavelengths.
- This allows researchers to watch star formation by looking through huge, cold clouds of gas.
- Important discoveries and Achievements
- The project has generated 309 scientific studies.
- In 2020, SOFIA discovered water molecules (H2O) on the sun-facing side of the Moon.
- In 2019, SOFIA also discovered helium hydride — the first molecule formed in the Universe almost 14 billion years ago.
- SOFIA also identified atmospheric circulation patterns in Jupiter.
- It also mapped the magnetic field within G47, one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms.
- SOFIA’s annual operating Budget is the second-most expensive operating mission in Astrophysics, yet the science productivity of the mission is not commensurate with other large science missions.