NASA's flying lab touches down in Christchurch

NASA's flying lab touches down in Christchurch

Christchurch International Airport had a special visitor touch down this morning, and her name is Sofia.

NASA's flying observatory came in to land at 11am on Monday carrying scientific cargo for research missions in the area.

NASA's flying lab touches down in Christchurch

Sofia in flight (NASA)

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a specially modified Boeing 747SP which has a telescope with an effective diameter of 250cm.

That gives the astronomers on board the ability to see the visible, infrared and sub-millimetre spectrums.

The aircraft will conduct its scientific operations from Christchurch until July this year.

But it isn't the first time Sofia has visited New Zealand, having flown into the country in 2013 and 2015.

NASA's flying lab touches down in Christchurch

An infrared image of Jupiter taken on Sofia's First Light flight (NASA/SOFIA/USRA/FORCAST Team)

Among the flying lab's achievements so far are capturing an infrared image of Jupiter, which is impossible for scientists on the ground to do, as well as documenting a recently born cluster of stars 6400 light years from Earth.

Facts about Sofia:

Newshub.