Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy(SOFIA) – UPSC Prelims

  • SOFIA: It is an airborne observatory jointly built by NASA and German Aerospace Centre. It features a reflecting telescope mounted on a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft flying into the stratosphere at 38,000-45,000 feet.
  • Purpose: It allows researchers to observe the infrared universe as many objects in space emit almost all their energy at infrared wavelengths and are often invisible when observed with visible light.
  • It has confirmed for the first time water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface and not limited to cold, shadowed places.
  • Significance of the discovery of water on Moon: NASA’s Artemis programme plans to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024 and hopes to establish a sustainable human presence there by the end of the decade. If space explorers can use the Moon’s resources, it means they need to carry less water from Earth.
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