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NASA recently stated that its flying observatory Sofia is preparing for its 2018 campaign.
FACTS FOR PRELIMS
Sofia or Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Centre, DLR.
2018 will be the fourth year of operations for Sofia, this years campaign will include, among others, observations of celestial magnetic fields, star-forming regions, comets and Saturn’s giant moon Titan. It will also conduct observations to better understand how methane levels change with seasons on Mars.
Scientists believe that the observatory’s investigations will help them understand how magnetic fields affect the rate at which interstellar clouds condense to form new stars.
Researchers also plan to utilise Sofia’s mobility to study the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan by studying its shadow as it passes in front of a star during an eclipse-like event called an occultation.