What is Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)?

For the first time, Oxygen-18 was detected in Earth’s mesosphere and lower thermosphere using the data collected by the GREAT instrument on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). This is the first time that heavy oxygen has been detected outside a laboratory. Heavy oxygen has 10 neutrons compared to the 8 neutrons present in the more common isotope that we breathe.

What is Oxygen-18 detected by SOFIA?

It is a stable isotope of oxygen. It has eight protons and 10 neutrons. O2 has eight protons and eight neutrons. In the Arctic and Antarctic, oxygen-18 is used to determine temperature and at what temperature ice forms in these regions.

What is SOFIA?

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) was a telescope mounted on a Boeing 747 SP aircraft that used infrared light to observe the universe. The telescope had an 8.9-foot-wide and nearly 20-ton mirror and was operated through a door in the side of the aircraft. The project was a joint effort between NASA and the German Aerospace Center. It was cancelled in 2022 due to its high cost and inadequate scientific output.

What is the mission of the SOFIA telescope?

SOFIA was used to make observations of complex molecules, new solar systems, and planets in the solar system. It was jointly developed by NASA and GAC (German Aerospace Center). You can make observations from onboard a plane with the SOFIA telescope.

Why did NASA cancel SOFIA?

The SOFIA telescope was built to be mounted on an aeroplane. This means, it runs on aircraft fuel, which is one of the most expensive fuels. Thus, the operating costs of SOFIA were very high. The Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 recommended concluding SOFIA.

Where is the SOFIA telescope now?

SOFIA telescope is to be put on display at the Prima Air and Space Museum located in Arizona.




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