SOFIA Adjusts Science Planning Following Damage to Aircraft

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is adjusting its science observation plans and canceling the remainder of its Southern Hemisphere deployment following damage to the aircraft caused by severe weather on Monday, July 18. SOFIA is currently operating out of Christchurch International Airport in New Zealand to better observe celestial objects in the southern skies.

SOFIA at Christchurch Airport, NZ at night
SOFIA at Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand. Credit: NASA/SOFIA/G. Perryman

The SOFIA team has determined the needed repairs will take at least three weeks, eliminating the possibility of conducting the remaining science observation flights that were planned from New Zealand through August 7.

SOFIA arrived in New Zealand on June 18 and had a successful and productive month of science flights. Using two instruments, HAWC+ and GREAT, SOFIA observed and studied a wide range of celestial objects and phenomena, like cosmic magnetic fields, structure of the Milky Way, and the origin of cosmic rays.

During the deployment, the SOFIA team also took part in multiple outreach events, sharing information about the observatory and its science with students in grades K-12, youth groups, museum attendees, and members of the aerospace industry.

The aircraft will return to its usual base of operations in Palmdale, California, and resume science flights after repairs are complete.