The biggest flying telescope in the world, NASA’s SOFIA has shared some breathtaking images. Have a look here.
The world’s largest airborne telescope Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), which is operated by NASA, embarked on its final flight on September 29, 2022. Marking the end of an era, NASA shared a small breathtaking collection of the cosmic imagery assembled during the last voyage of the SOFIA telescope. NASA took to its Instagram handle to share that since 2010, the SOFIA has flown 921 flights, gathering valuable data on the cosmos.
The space agency explained that the first shared image is of the galaxy Centaurus A, which has a core column made up of orange and dark red dust lanes and a light blue shell surrounding it. The Orion Nebula may also be seen in three dimensions, revealing its intricate structure and a “bubble” that has been cleared of gas and dust by a strong stellar wind.
NASA’s post further shed light on the Cigar Galaxy, in which red streamlines accompany outflows brought on by a powerful nuclear starburst. A grey ring of starlight surrounds the centre, with hints of dust and hydrogen visible in red and yellow, respectively. Additionally, the space agency displayed the Omega Nebula, and lastly, the final image displays the SOFIA mission flying into the sunset.
Journey of SOFIA telescope
NASA partnered with the German space agency (DLR) to operate the flying telescope, SOFIA. It had its first flight back in 2010. However, it had already achieved its full operational capability in 2014, but even after that, the flying observatory assisted in the discovery of water on the sunlit areas of the Moon in 2020.
NASA further revealed that the SOFIA telescope had housed and flown in a modified Boeing 747 aircraft in its last journey, and while using infrared light to peer deep into space from high in Earth’s stratosphere. “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 said in its post.
It has also been revealed that although SOFIA’s days of flying may be at an end, there’s still work to be done, as astronomers have years of legacy data to analyse, which potentially houses further scientific discoveries.