For the first time ever, scientists have detected water molecules on the surface of two asteroids, Iris and Massalia, revealing new insights into the distribution of water in our solar system.



NASA’s SOFIA, which stands for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, was a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that carried a large telescope for making observations of the cosmos in the infrared spectrum. It was a joint project between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).


SOFIA made its first science flight in 2010 and continued operations until September 2022, making significant contributions to our understanding of the universe.


Key Points

  • It flew above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere: This allowed it to observe infrared light, which is blocked by water vapor in the atmosphere. This made it possible to study objects that are invisible to ground-based telescopes, such as young stars, galaxies shrouded in dust, and the composition of comets.
  • It had a 2.5-meter telescope: This telescope was large enough to collect a lot of light, but small enough to be carried on an airplane.
  • It made observations at a wide range of wavelengths: This allowed it to study a wide variety of objects, from planets in our solar system to distant galaxies.


SOFIA’s scientific achievements include:

  • Discovering water ice on the Moon
  • Making the first direct detection of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet
  • Studying the formation of stars and planets
  • Investigating the composition of interstellar dust


While SOFIA’s operations have ended, the data it collected will continue to be analyzed for years to come. The mission has made a significant impact on our understanding of the universe and will continue to do so for many years to come.