NASA to Retire SOFIA Observatory
Pixabay Image Credit
NASA’s airborne observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, known as SOFIA, has been retired. After almost a decade, this airborne telescope has been retired following airplane damage and success in its mission to quickly gather images around the globe. SOFIA was a good investment on behalf of NASA, and was innovative in that its design was elegant and was designed to quickly capture images when opportunities arose.
SOFIA was a large telescope weighing approximately 19-tons that was mounted inside of a Boeing 747 airplane that focused on mysteries of the Universe. SOFIA was created in 1996, and was decommissioned this week. SOFIA flew from 2014-2022, and its reflecting telescope captured amazing images of objects in space. SOFIA flew 143-flights over 8-years, and traveled the world to capture images and events that were visible in certain hemispheres.
SOFIA was used to view the moon, nebulae, star development and atmospheric and space chemistry. Most notably, SOFIA’s telescope found water on the lunar surface, viewed star formation and was used to study Pluto’s atmosphere. When atmospheric conditions were favorable, SOFIA was able to be quickly dispatched to capture images, which gave it a distinct advantage over other slower methods of deployment.
In 2020, SOFIA detected water on the lunar surface. This was significant because the water observed was seen outside of the poles of the moon and shaded areas. This finding confirms that water is found on the Moon’s surface in more abundance than believed before. SOFIA discovered this during a flight at 45,000 feet. SOFIA also observed the formation of stars in nebulae, and was able to see how stars aid and hinder each other’s development within the nebulae structure.
As a fan of space explorations and study and 747 airplanes, SOFIA will be missed. The scale of this project, the size of the telescope and the aerospace technology involved. SOFIA’s captured images made a difference and are stored in archives. The airplane itself was damaged, and was old at 43-years which led to its retirement.
We should be very thankful for this innovation, and the dedication that NASA and the scientists, aviators and engineers put into these missions over the years. The accuracy of the telescope, the modified 747 and the dedication of those who supported this project over the past 8-years is remarkable and I will miss SOFIA.
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