NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) landed at Santiago International Airport in Chile on March 18. The Boeing 747SP will conduct trials over the next two weeks, the first time it has landed in South America. So, why is it there? Let’s investigate further.
Sophia It is temporarily changing its base of operations from Palmdale, California, to Chile to observe celestial bodies that can only be seen from latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, NASA said in a statement. It is the first time in the history of Sofia that it will be published in South America.
The journey between Palmdale and Santiago took nearly ten and a half hours, according to data I provided FlightRadar24.com. It’s SOFIA’s first international flight in 2022. All of its previous flights this year have been around Palmdale and one to Fresno on February 14.
What will Sophia notice in South America?
Sofia will operate eight scientific flights from Santiago International Airport over the next two weeks. The team will primarily observe the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds during deployment, NASA said in a statement, which are two of the Milky Way’s closest neighboring galaxies.
Being in Chile for just two weeks is what NASA describes as a short deployment, compared to SOFIA’s long deployments, where more than 25 flights are typically planned with multiple instruments.
Naseem Rangwala, Sophia Project Scientist said:
“We are excited to deploy to Chile so that we can provide greater access to the southern hemisphere skies for our scientific community. We are increasing the pace of our deployment with an emphasis on efficiency and priority goals, and we are grateful for the opportunity to do so from Santiago.”
Richard Glenn, Chargé d’Affairs at the US Embassy in Chile, added,
“Scientific collaboration, particularly in astronomy, has been a cornerstone of the US-Chile relationship that dates back to the establishment of the Cerro Santa Lucia Observatory in Santiago more than 170 years ago. The deployment of NASA Sophia to Chile is the exciting next step in that relationship. It brings us closer to the stars than ever before.
Sophia will be deployed to Chile for two weeks. Photo: NASA/Rafael Coe.
History of Sofia
The Boeing 747SP used in the Sophia Telescope is 44 years old. The plane initially entered service with Pan Am in 1977, before heading to United Airlines in 1986. The giant plane was acquired by NASA in 1997 and significantly modified to prepare it for its new role carrying a reflecting telescope that would allow scientists to study the solar system.
The onboard telescope monitors the universe in infrared light and monitors events such as star formations and new solar systems.
Sofia made its first test flight in 2009, and one year later, on May 26, 2010, Sophia made its first image of the solar system. The telescope is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which is why both flags are drawn on the fuselage.
The DLR provides telescope and scheduled aircraft maintenance (with Lufthansa Technic), mission support. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science, and mission operations. The Boeing 747-SP is maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Building 703 in Palmdale, California.
Have you seen NASA’s Boeing 747SP? where did you see him? Let us know in the comments below.
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