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NASA’s SOFIA Takes It’s Last Flight: Space Agency Shares Images Captured By World’s Largest Flying Telescope

Delhi: NASA constantly endeavours to unravel the unseen and unknown parts of the universe. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) was a mission of discovery, revealing unseen – and sometimes unseeable – parts of our universe. As the mission draws to a close, with flights ending on Thursday, Sept. 29, NASA is taking a look back at the scientific accomplishments of SOFIA and some of the feats of engineering that let it fly.Also Read – Jupiter Closest To Earth In 6 Decades. Jaw-Dropping Images Go Viral | SEE PICTURES

“From deepening our understanding of water on the Moon to revealing the invisible forces of cosmic-scale magnetic fields, none of it could have happened without the hundreds of people who contributed their expertise to the SOFIA mission,” said Naseem Rangwala, the mission’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.


“Cruising at nearly 41,000 ft (12,500 m) in the dark of night and twilight of morning, SOFIA has taken breathtaking observations of a plethora of celestial objects,” NASA wrote in the caption.

Centaurus A. A galaxy with orange and dark red dust lanes comprising a center column and a faint shell of blue along its outskirts. Twisted magnetic fields distort the center column of the galaxy.

Cigar Galaxy. Red streamlines follow outflows caused by an intense nuclear starburst. Around the center, a ring of starlight appears gray with hints of hydrogen appearing in red and dust in yellow.

Omega Nebula. A horseshoe-shaped nebula with red cold dust along its outer shell. Near the center of the nebula, there are white-hot stars, with other blue and orange cosmic material in between.

A 3D view of the Orion Nebula reveals detailed structure of the nebula, including a “bubble” that has been blown clear of gas and dust by a powerful stellar wind.


From the start of its development in 1996, SOFIA required engineering ingenuity. A Boeing 747SP jetliner had to be modified to carry the 38,000-pound, 100-inch (more than 17,000-kilogram, 2.5-meter) telescope provided by NASA’s partner on the SOFIA mission, the German Space Agency at DLR.

SOFIA was a joint project of NASA and the German Space Agency at DLR. DLR provided the telescope, scheduled aircraft maintenance, and other support for the mission. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley managed the SOFIA program, science, and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft was maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California. SOFIA achieved full operational capability in 2014 and concluded its final science flight on Sept. 29, 2022.

Astronomers learned all these things and many more as SOFIA explored the universe from 40,000 feet. Even as the mission winds down, making way for the next chapter in infrared astronomy, the discoveries made from the observatory’s data will go on. SOFIA’s legacy and that of the entire team who made the mission fly is to have taught humanity more about the cosmos and inspired others to do the same.

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