What is NASA’s SOFIA?
SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a 2.7m reflecting telescope.
Flying into the stratosphere at 38,000 to 45,000ft puts SOFIA above 99 percent of Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere, allowing astronomers to study the solar system and beyond in ways impossible with ground-based telescopes.
The observatory’s mobility also allows researchers to observe space anywhere in the world, and allows studies of transient events taking place over oceans where there are no telescopes.
For example, astronomers on SOFIA studied eclipse-like events of Pluto, Saturn’s moon Titan, and Kuiper Belt Object MU69, the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, to study the objects’ atmospheres and surroundings.