Sofia, the Historic Airplane-Borne Telescope Lands for the Last Time

A modified Boeing 747 jetliner flew hundreds of flights over the past eight years carrying a 2.5-meter, 19-ton telescope known as Sofia.

 This is the Stratospheric observatory for infrared astronomy. Although it was possible to look into the skies at wavelengths impossible to see from

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ground level, flying a telescope on a large jet meant that you could afford a high-end ticket. NASA and the German Space Agency grounded the mission yesterday.

Sofia was an innovative method to view the infrared universe. Infrared light can be described as heat radiation. However, astronomers cannot observe cosmic objects like dust-enshrouded

planets and galaxies if the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere doesn't absorb it. It makes it impossible to see those objects through telescopes located on mountaintops,

Sofia could still see better by flying through the stratosphere above water vapor at an elevation of 40,000ft or higher.

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